Road Safety Western Force Head Coach Dave Wessels has named his side for the Western Australian club’s opening match of the 2017 Vodafone Super Rugby season against the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, 25 February.
The match day 23 features a host of new faces with up to eight players set to run out in the Western Force colours for the first time and six men a chance of earning their maiden Super Rugby cap.
Among the Force men set to enter the Super Rugby arena for the first time are the exciting backline trio of Bill Meakes and Curtis Rona who will partner in the centres and excitement machine Chance Peni.
Big name recruit Tatafu Polota-Nau will make his maiden Force appearance off the bench as he faces his former side for the first time.
Wessels says the team is ready to fire in Sydney this weekend as they look to start the season on the right note.
“It’s always exciting to actually be able to start the season after a long pre-season, the team have worked very hard.
“What we’ve tried to do is reward the players who we feel have shown the most intensity in their work up until now, so as always there were a few players unlucky to miss out, but we’re very proud of the guys that will represent us this weekend.”
Wessels went on to say that while there are a few Vodafone Super Rugby debuts in the team, these players have all played at a high level and are ready for the challenge.
“It’s fantastic for those players, but particularly because those guys are quite experienced rugby players.
“It might be their first game for the [Road Safety] Western Force but they’ve played on the big stage before and are ready to play.”
In the front row, co-captain Heath Tessmann will lead the side as he links up with veteran loosehead Pek Cowan and young gun tighthead Jermaine Ainsley.
In the second row, Wallaby Adam Coleman makes his return from a knee injury suffered on the Spring Tour as he looks to reawaken the strong partnership he formed with Ross Haylett-Petty last season.
Rounding out the starting forward pack, Brynard Stander and Kane Koteka will bring incredible physicality and breakdown intensity when they run out at blindside and openside respectively while Richard Hardwick will wear the No.8 jersey.
Dynamic scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens will facilitate the Force backline as he looks to provide quality service to Jono Lance who will be raring to go after a strong pre-season campaign.
Former Gloucester centre Bill Meakes and rugby league convert Curtis Rona will link up at inside and outside the centre, with Meakes’ power running and brilliant ball skills along with Rona’s natural attacking instincts set to cause plenty of excitement.
There will be no shortage of pace and finishing ability in the back three with new recruit Chance Peni and Luke Morahan to man the wings and the newly re-signed Dane Haylett-Petty to control the game from fullback.
In the reserves, the old heads of Polota-Nau and Ben Daley will look to make their impact felt when they run out for the first time in Force colours, while Isireli Naisarani, Michael Ruru and Alex Newsome will be ready to do their job on debut if called upon.
The Road Safety Western Force will kick off their 2017 Vodafone Super Rugby campaign against the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium at 4:45 PM AWST on Saturday, 25 February with all action LIVE on Fox Sports.
2017 Vodafone Super Rugby – Round One
Waratahs v Road Safety Western Force
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday, 25 February 2017
Kick-off: 4:45 PM AWST
1 Pek Cowan
2 Heath Tessmann (C)
3 Jermaine Ainsley
4 Ross Haylett-Petty
5 Adam Coleman
6 Brynard Stander
7 Kane Koteka
8 Richard Hardwick
9 Ryan Louwrens
10 Jono Lance
11 Chance Peni *
12 Bill Meakes *
13 Curtis Rona *
14 Luke Morahan
15 Dane Haylett-Petty D (VC)
16 Tatafu Polota-Nau**
17 Ben Daley**
18 Tetera Faulkner
19 Matt Philip
20 Isireli Naisarani *
21 Michael Ruru *
22 Ian Prior
23 Alex Newsome *
*Denotes Possible Vodafone Super Rugby debut
** Denotes Possible Road Safety Western Force debut