Preview Western Force v Waikato Chiefs Super 14
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Chiefs v Force Preview: Not Enough Indians

Chiefs v Force Preview: Not Enough Indians
David Hill - provide options at 10, 12 or 15

David Hill: provide options at 10, 12 or 15

It’s not only the Western Force who have been unlucky in love recently but the Chiefs are without a swag of quality players for this weekend’s clash in Swan Laager.

In good news for the Force Mark Bartholomeusz, Ryan Cross and Nick Cummins return to the starting XV and recent four-game emergency signing Scott Staniforth is back on the wing.

And in news to light up the Bunsen burner of old Einstein himself, James Rabbit O’Connor has finally been selected at flyhalf – no, not ‘flyback’ this time but actually at No. 10.

How long he stays there remains to be seen as former Waikato and one test All Black David Hill has flown into WA to boost the flagging Force firepower.

Interestingly, Hill’s prime position is flyhalf  but he’s also played NPC rugby at fullback for Marlborough and Southland, and Super 12/14 for the Waikato Chiefs at inside centre.

He’s been on two All Black tours as a dirt tracker and also turned out for the Junior All Blacks and NZ Maori. He is a very capable player and more than adequate replacement for ‘the General’.

Mr Versatile also played in the Guinness Premiership for Bristol and has flown in directly from Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan, where he was player of the year in 2009. He returns whence he came at the end of the Super 14.

Personally, I’d like to see Rabbit stay at No. 10 for the rest of the season but at least John Mitchell now has any number of options with 10, 12 and 15.

Bart is selected at fullback where he’s also had plenty of experience at the top level.

In a mild surprise Mitch Inman retains his place in the run-on side but is now at 12 partnering Ryan Cross.

I say a mild surprise but he did have a fairly enterprising game last week in the centres although I’d suggest he may not be there next week when Hill comes on board.

In the forwards Tucky Dunning gets the push to the bench after his out-of-sorts timing malfunction the other day and Nic Henderson returns.

The Chiefs are without big guns Mils Muliaina (resting), stand-in Captain Sione Lauaki (suspended) and Sitiveni Sivivatu (shoulder).

First choice lock Craig Clarke (groin) and prop James McGougan (back) are also injured.

All Black winger Lelia Masaga returns for his first Super 14 hitout and Brendon Leonard is the starting halfback again. Surprisingly, Aled de Malmanche is on the bench with Hika Elliot now the No. 2.

The Chiefs backline looks particularly dangerous with five having previously turned out for the All Blacks.

However, there’s a brittle look about the Chiefs forwards especially the inexperienced second row.

The front row is a hefty unit with Taumalolo a steamroller and I think their loosies will be very dangerous while Bam Pocock and Dick Brown aren’t around.

The Force are beginning to regroup after a calamitous start to the season and now have an injection of experience to stabilise the equilibrium.

If the Force can pressure the Chiefs’ youngsters at lineout time and dominate first phase possession they could be in with a chance.

The Chiefs poor defensive effort last week against the Lions would have given them some hope and there may also be a fatigue factor at play after the South African leg of their tour.

Mitch would love a win against his old team but they’ll have to work hard to achieve it.

I’m picking the Chiefs to win by a small margin but surely it’s time for an upset. I’d like to send these Tainuis home to their King with their humaeko between their legs.

Force: 1. Nic Henderson 2. Pek Cowan 3. Tim Fairbrother 4. Tom Hockings 5. Nathan Sharpe (c) 6. Ben McCalman 7. Matt Hodgson 8. Sam Wykes 9. Brett Sheehan 10. James O’Connor 11. Nick Cummins 12. Mitch Inman 13. Ryan Cross 14. Scott Staniforth 15. Mark Bartholomeusz

Reserves: 16. Ryan Tyrrell 17. Matt Dunning 18. Richard Stanford 19. Luke Jones 20. Chris O’Young,  21.am Harris 22. Dane Haylett-Petty

Chiefs: 1.Sona Taumalolo 2. Hika Elliot 3. Nathan White 4. Romana Graham 5. Culum Retallick 6. Liam Messam (captain, 7. Tanerau Latimer 8. Colin Bourke 9. Brendon Leonard 10. Stephen Donald 11. Dwayne Sweeney 12. Callum Bruce 13. Richard Kahui 14. Lelia Masaga 15. Mike Delany

Reserves: 16. Aled de Malmanche 17. Ben Afeaki 18. Jarrad Hoeata 19. Luke Braid 20. Junior Poluleuligaga 21. Jackson Willison 22. Tim Nanai-Williams

  • Seb V

    Is staniforth fast enough for wing? I always thought he was an inside centre.

  • Lance Free

    He’s played the majority of his rugby as a winger but was used for a short time for the Force and Wallabies at inside centre. A direct runner but a bit injury prone, he’ll need to step up from Div 2 Jap rugby to this…..

    • Ian

      But when he’s good, he is great.

  • Reddy!

    Better looking team than last week, but the chiefs will have too much power out wide and through the middle.

    Good to see Cummins back and running!

  • Rocky Elboa

    I think you are being too kind Lance, O’Conner at 10 makes sense but has little experience there, will Donald is a seasoned 10.

    Messam and Latimer will be too much for the Force without Bam Bam and Dick.

    Bruce and Kahui v Inman and Cross, Cross is not a great player IMO, and has no match fitness. Bruce and Kahui are an excellent pair and Kahui has shown he is in fine form.

    Hate to say it but I think it will be 0 from 3 for the Force, Chiefs by 10

    • Robson

      Tuhatea Paki is king to more than just the Tainuis!!

      Now back to the rugby.

      The Chiefs backline is indeed very dangerous with the pairing of Kahui (who is on fire) and Bruce. They will test the centre pairing of Inman and Cross and with Latimer and Messam doing the sweeping, the Force defence is going to be severely tested. Luckily the finishing potency of Sivivatu and Muliaina won’t be on the paddock, but Massaga will be.

      The Chiefs have toured very well and if they can tuck this game under their belt on their way home they will seriously rock the boat of this competition in its later stages.

      I wouldn’t worry about the match up between O’Connor and Donald – O’Connor is right up for it. Donald is a sound player, but he’s not in the talent class that O’Connor is.

      It’s difficult to see how the Force can win this one and if their one on one tackling is as bad as it was last week, they will get a hiding again.

      However the tide doesn’t stay out all the time and they could come home on this one. But I’m not making any predictions.

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Roscoe Tims (aka @LanceFree): A nasty, opinionated little man whose views are indeed narrow with a capital 'N'. Favourite Sport: mungo bashing. Does he ever have anything positive to say?

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