Super Rugby AU – The Clash Of The Returning Captains

The Western Force takes on the NSW Waratahs at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast this Friday @ 11:05 SA time. 

The Western Force lost their round two fixture against the Waratahs with 14-23 and come off a bye last weekend. The Western Force are without a win after four games in the 2020 Super Rugby AU competitions. With two points on the log, the Force is also at the bottom of the log, nine points adrift from the fourth-placed Reds. The Waratahs are currently third on the Super Rugby AU log with eleven points after a great win of 45-12 against the Reds last weekend,

Western Force captain Ian Prior's inclusion, who missed the past two Super Rugby AU matches through injury, is one of seven changes – five to the starting line-up and two on the bench – from the team that faced the Melbourne Rebels two weeks ago.

The match also marks the return of Force legend Pek Cowan to the starting line-up. The 10-time-capped Wallaby prop made his 131st appearance for the club coming off the bench against the Rebels.

In a second change to the forward pack, Future Force Academy graduate Kane Koteka is set to make his first Super Rugby AU appearance of the season on Friday. The flanker has been brought into the starting side in place of Tevin Ferris, who remains on the injury list after leaving the field early in Round 5.

Koteka is a hard-running loose forward in a similar mould to his teammates Henry Stowers and Brynard Stander.

In two changes amongst the backs, Brad Lacey returns to the wing in place of Marcel Brache, who is being rested, and Jake Strachan, who is set to make his Super Rugby AU debut at fullback in place of Jack McGregor, who is included amongst the reserves.

Strachan has been a regular in the Force line-up in recent seasons, impressing with some consistent performances in Global Rapid Rugby.

In two changes to the bench, Ollie Atkins returns to the squad as loose forward cover, and utility back Nick Jooste makes his return to the matchday 23 in the place of Henry Taefu, who is rested.

Western Force: 1. Pek Cowan, 2. Feleto Kaitu'u, 3. Kieran Longbottom, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Fergus Lee-Warner, 6. Henry Stowers, 7. Kane Koteka, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Ian Prior (c), 10. Jono Lance, 11. Brad Lacey, 12. Richard Kahui, 13. Kyle Godwin, 14. Byron Ralston, 15. Jake Strachan. Replacements: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Chris Heiberg, 18. Tom Sheminant, 19. Johan Bardoul, 20. Ollie Atkins, 21. Nick Frisby, 22. Nick Jooste, 23. Jack McGregor.

The NSW Waratahs' returning skipper Rob Simmons will return from injury after being a late scratching from his side's convincing last-start victory over the Reds.

Rob Simmons will partner Tom Staniforth in the second row, with Ned Hanigan shifting to the reserves.

Tetera Faulkner earns his first start for the Waratahs in Super Rugby AU, while Robbe Abel returns to the bench after being unavailable for personal reasons.

It's an unchanged starting backline for Rob Penney, with Mich Short, Ben Donaldson and Joey Walton all on the bench.

Waratahs: 1. Tom Robertson, 2. Ton Horton, 3. Te Tera Faulkner, 4. Tom Staniforth, 5. Rob Simmons (c), 6. Lachie Swinton, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Jack Dempsey, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Will Harrison, 11. Alex Newsome, 12. Karmichael Hunt, 13. Lalakai Foketi, 14. James Ramm, 15. Jack Maddocks. Replacements: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Angus Bell, 18. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 19. Ned Hanigan, 20. Hugh Sinclair, 21. Mitch Short, 22. Ben Donaldson, 23. Joey Walton.

Opta Facts:

The NSW Waratahs have won three of their last four Super Rugby games against the Force – including a 23-14 win when they met in Round 2 of Super Rugby AU – despite having trailed at half-time on three occasions throughout that period.

The Force have won four of their last six Super Rugby games in Queensland (L2); although, they were defeated by the Reds in their only previous game in the state in Super Rugby AU (Round 3).

The NSW Waratahs will be on the hunt for back-to-back Super Rugby wins for the first time since March 2019 after a thumping 45-12 win over the Reds in Round 6 of Super Rugby AU.

The NSW Waratahs have conceded just 4.2 offloads per game thus far in Super Rugby AU, fewer than any other team in the competition.

Henry Stowers (Force) has made a competition-high 71 tackles in Super Rugby AU; he has missed just five further attempts for a success rate of 93%.