Preview: Force vs Chiefs
- 21 Mar 2014
The in-form Force face a tough task on Saturday as they welcome the defending champions to Perth.
Two bonus-point wins over the Rebels and the Highlanders cancelled out the Force's disappointing opening round defeat to the Brumbies.
It's easy to see why the tries have flowed for the Force this year, with the eccentric Nick Cummins joined out wide by the incisive Luke Morahan on the opposite wing and Junior Rasolea in midfield. And alongside the reliable boot of South African flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, it's no surprise the points have racked up.
But Michael Foley's men have shipped their share of five-pointers, too. It was only by the width of a post that they withstood the Highlanders' comeback in Dunedin, and that was after the hosts had butchered numerous opportunities to cross the whitewash. And while the Rebels' impotency left them struggling to break down the Force rearguard, the Brumbies breached that line with ease in round one. The free-flowing Chiefs are certainly capable of similar devastation should they turn on the style.
Indiscipline is not the Force's strong suit either, and Wallaby Ben McCalman misses out this week after being cited for a dangerous tackle last weekend. Hugh McMenamin makes his return on the blindside flank, with Angus Cottrell moving No 8.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, retained their perfect record for the season last weekend with a thumping 36-20 win over the Stormers in Hamilton to match narrower victories against the Highlanders and Crusaders.
When you take a look at the depth and the range of options coach Dave Rennie has at his disposal, it doesn't really seem like a fair fight. The Chiefs' three-from-three record has been chalked up with the men from Waikato scarcely breaking sweat; best take cover when they do hit their stride. And it's surely a case of if, not when.
This week, Rennie welcomes back All Blacks scavenger Sam Cane to the fray following his spell on the sidelines, and his addition makes for a terrifying back row alongside Liam Messam and Liam Squire. Veteran Mils Muliaina has been moved to the wing.
Force – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Chiefs – 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Mils Muliaina, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Tanerau Latimer, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images
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