The Emirates Western Force will again field an all-Wallabies back row against the Blues albeit with Richard Brown, Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman playing musical chairs when it comes to positions in the loose forwards.

With the injured David Pocock unavailable Matt Hodgson will switch to the other side of the scrum and take the seven jersey, Brown lines up at blindside flanker while McCalman has moved from the tight five and has been named at No 8, a position he performed with aplomb during the Wallabies spring tour.

“We take confidence in that we can bring Ben back from the second row into the backrow and are able to maintain proven quality personnel in that area,” Head Coach Richard Graham said.

The only new face in the forwards appears alongside skipper Nathan Sharpe who will be partnered in the second row by Sam Wykes. The young lock, who impressed when he came off the bench against the Sharks, is determined to secure a starting spot and if he can replicate his efforts of last weekend he’ll be in the four jersey this season more often than not.

“I though Sam was outstanding last week. There certainly has been plenty of positive feedback about his performance and I think he clearly demonstrated why we were so keen to resign him for a further two years,” Graham said.

The front row remains unchanged as has the halfback pairing of Brett Sheehan and James O’Connor. Mitch Inman’s elbow injury has required a midfield adjustment and will see the energetic and evasive Nick Cummins move to the outside centre role.

“Nick is adept enough to take on the responsibilities of moving in from the wing, he has played sufficient rugby at 13 to be a very good replacement and we are happy with the way we’re lining up in that area of the ground,” said Graham.

Alfie Mafi earns his first start of the season on the wing after twice coming off the bench. Emirates Western Force supporters will be hoping his electric pace will be on show after several outstanding performances in the pre-season trial matches showcased his talent.

The juggling of positions may not be restricted to just jersey numbers with Graham indicating a change-up in roles for O’Connor and Gene Fairbanks, two of his standout performers so far this season.

“We’re looking at implementing changes in the positioning of Gene and James. We’ll use Gene at first receiver at times while James will rotate through to fullback, we’ve got the flexibility so we want to utilise that,” said Graham.

“They’ve both played different roles at various times this year and this week our intention is to formalise it a bit more.”

The Emirates Western Force will have to be on their toes against a Blues side that has enjoyed a solid opening to the season with two wins from three starts. Their traditional quick ball movement and expansive style has been on show and proved successful for the Auckland side in victories against the Crusaders and Lions.

“They certainly have a strong squad, (Coach) Pat Lam has rotated them well throughout their South African trip so they’ll come to us fresh,” Graham said of Saturday night’s opponents.

“They philosophically play a very attacking game and have done so in the opening weeks. We need to be mindful of their runners and be strong in our one on one defence.

“Importantly though I think we need to play our game and just be more clinical in our finishing. We have had opportunities this season and had teams on the back foot but let ourselves down, it’s something we need to rectify starting this Saturday.”

Recent signing Matt Brandon has been named on the bench while Pat Dellit and Jono Jenkins are also inclusions on the pine.

Inaugural players Richard Brown and Cameron Shepherd will play their 50th matches for the Emirates Western Force. Both debuted in the club’s historical first match against the Brumbies and have gone on to earn Australian International honours. They join a select group to reach the milestone with Tai McIsaac, Nathan Sharpe and Matt Hodgson the only other players to achieve the feat at the club.

2011 Super Rugby – Week 4

Emirates Western Force v Blues

Saturday, 12 March 2011 at nib Stadium, Perth

Kick-off: 7.05pm

1. Pek Cowan

2. Ben Whittaker

3. Tim Fairbrother

4. Sam Wykes

5. Nathan Sharpe

6. Richard Brown

7. Matt Hodgson

8. Ben McCalman

9. Brett Sheehan

10. .James O’Connor

11. David Smith

12. Gene Fairbanks

13. Nick Cummins

14. Alfie Mafi

15. Cameron Shepherd


16. Nathan Charles

17. Matt Dunning

18. Tevita Metuisela

19. Jono Jenkins

20. James Stannard

21. Matt Brandon

22. Pat Dellit

History: Emirates Western Force v Blues







Sat, 17 Apr 2010


Blues v Emirates Western Force




Fri, 13 Feb 2009


Emirates Western Force v Blues




Sat, 15 Mar 2008


Blues v Emirates Western Force


North Harbour


Fri, 04 May 2007


Emirates Western Force v Blues




Fri, 14 Apr 2006


Blues v Emirates Western Force