The Western Force will give Super Rugby starts to off-season recruit and former NRL young gun Will Tupou as well as recent signing David Harvey in the club's big clash against the Waratahs on Saturday in Sydney.
Coach Richard Graham has made seven changes to the run-on side, and nine overall, after being forced to reshuffle his backline following injuries to the club's three starting outside backs from last weekend. Wings Nick Cummins and Napolioni Nalaga have been sidelined with calf and ankle injuries respectively while Cameron Shepherd is out with an adductor strain.
Coming into the side is Alfie Mafi who has enjoyed his best ever start to a season and on the opposite wing Samu Wara makes a first run-on appearance. Harvey lines up at fullback where his superb field kicking will be put to good use. While best known as a playmaking first receiver, Harvey is just as adept at 15 where he has spent plenty of time in club rugby.
Tupou's appearance will mark a successful conversion to rugby from league where he made his start two years ago by scoring a match winning try for the North Queensland Cowboys on debut. A former Australian Schoolboys rugby representative, Tupou is an exciting young talent returning to his roots and is coming off a strong performance for the Western Force A side last weekend.
In the forwards emerging second row star Sam Wykes and capped Wallabies prop Pek Cowan return to the tight five while Angus Cottrell earns a run-on debut in the backrow after three substitute appearances.
Despite a big turnover in playing stocks from last round Graham said the squad has got on with the job at hand and are ready and raring to put in a big performance to secure the club's first win of the season.
"It hasn't changed the way that we prepare, we just need to be strong in our mental approach and understand that a core group of players have been constant in the first three games and it'll be their responsibility to ensure that we play the way we want to," said Graham as the team departed Perth for Sydney on Thursday.
"It's wonderful to see Will Tupou and Dave Harvey make their Super Rugby debuts, they join a proud list of players to have represented the club."
Graham said the breakdown battle will be a pivotal duel where the likes of David Pocock and Matt Hodgson will face a couple of familiar faces with former WA based flanks Jono Jenkins and Tevita Metuisela starting for the 'Tahs.
"Having coached with Michael Foley and Alan Gaffney I know the Waratahs side will be well prepared," Graham said.
"You can see that the 'Tahs want to be more aggressive at the breakdown and it'll be important that we control that aspect of the game.
"Four of our first five games are derby encounters. While the results of the first two didn't go our way it's important that we continue to work hard and believe in what we're doing in order to get a result.
"Games against your fellow countrymen are always extremely competitive and given the need for both teams to secure a win I don't expect this week's match to be any different."
On the substitutes bench Phoenix Battye returns as does Winston Stanley with second row recruit Toby Lynn (hand) and midfielder Patrick Dellit (cork) both unavailable for selection after picking up niggling injuries against the Hurricanes.
Western Force: 15 David Harvey, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 James Stannard, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (Captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Ben Seymour, 22 Winston Stanley.
Date: Saturday, March 17
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.40 (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
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