Western Force celebrateclose victory over Waratahs

Western Force Coach Richard Graham has made only minor adjustments to his 22 man squad for the club’s clash against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday night with dynamic winger Nick Cummins returning to the starting XV and experienced lock Toby Lynn to the reserves.

After a strong statement in their one point win against the Waratahs last weekend Graham has stuck with the majority of his run-on side.  Cummins and prop Kieran Longbottom are the only changes.

Longbottom, along with Pek Cowan, Nathan Charles and Salesi Ma’afu have formed a formidable front row combination in 2012 with each player making significant contributions in the opening month of the competition.

“I think the performance of our front row has been wonderful and they’ve given the side real impetus at the set piece as well as around the ground,” Graham said. “We’ve been able to rotate our front row forwards in terms of starting on the ground or on the bench which has assisted in the management of those guys.

“Pek Cowan is arguably the form loosehead prop in Australian rugby at the moment however given the short turnaround and his substantial workload so far this year I’ve made a rotation and looked to maximise the use of the resources available to us,” Graham said.

The efforts of his entire squad last week pleased Graham who pointed to the influence of the bench as one of the catalysts for the club’s first win.  He’ll again rely on their input as they aim for back to back victories on the road.

“I thought our bench had a significant impact in winning the game last weekend, everyone who came on really contributed to the effort,” Graham said. “I have no doubt they will play a big role in the outcome of the game on Friday and I have tremendous confidence in our depth and the ability of everyone to have an impact when called upon.”

After making an impressive debut last weekend recent signing David Harvey has again been selected at fullback although his versatility is expected to see him called upon to exert more influence in the midfield.

With four of the club’s first five matches away from home the team has already spent 33 hours in the air and they haven’t yet left Australia.  That prompted Graham to prepare his side on the east coast this week to aid in recovery and ensure they’re fresh for Friday’s encounter.

Starting XV:
1.       Kieran Longbottom
2.       Nathan Charles
3.       Salesi Ma’afu
4.       Sam Wykes
5.       Nathan Sharpe
6.       Angus Cottrell
7.       David Pocock (Captain)
8.       Matt Hodgson
9.       Brett Sheehan
10.   James Stannard
11.   Alfie Mafi
12.   Rory Sidey
13.   Will Tupou
14.   Nick Cummins
15.   David Harvey

16.   Ben Whittaker
17.   Pek Cowan
18.   Toby Lynn
19.   Richard Brown
20.   Justin Turner
21.   Winston Stanley
22.   Samu Wara