Mark Bartholomeusz named at flyhalf for crucial Force v Brumbies Super 14 opener
ACT Brumbies

Mark Bart down for general duties

Mark Bart down for general duties
Bart's the new 'General'

Bart's the new 'General'

The Western Force have named their team for Friday’s match-up with the Brumbies and as flagged earlier in the week, Mark Bartholomeusz is the new black.

He was recruited by the Force as a utility to provide backup at fullback and for Andre Pretorius at flyhalf – that he’s now the first choice No 10 is an unexpected elevation; however, this guy is no mug.

Although he’s been plying his trade in Europe since 2004 primarily at the top level, he’ll notice the difference coming from Petraca Padova in the Super 10 up a few notches to the Super 14.

Bart’s played at flyhalf at various times throughout his career and the only question mark will be his ability to go the distance back at this level.

There are a few mild surprises in the team announced today but most of it has been telegraphed in the trials.

James O’Connor has been selected at fullback. With Nick Cummins and Haig Sare out with injury they’re missing experienced outside backs so Cameron Shepherd reverts to wing to provide cover.

With solid inside centre Sam Harris recruited over the summer it’s understandable that Rabbit O’Connor has been consigned to the fullback role. 

The Force will miss his attacking brilliance at 12 but I guess this is a ‘needs must’ situation. Expect to see him closer in as the season progresses.

Pek Cowan continues his education at hooker where he looked surprisingly capable the other day against the Reds.

John Mitchell indicated earlier that he didn’t want to use Cowan as a hooker if he could avoid it but with his recruiting strategies foiled he probably doesn’t have much choice.

Bookends Nic Henderson and Tucky Dunning join him in the front row.

The talented Wykes is selected over Tom Hockings at lock who doesn’t even make it to the bench. 

Richard Stanford is the surprise reserve second rower but it may be that his utility status gets him the nod.  

The bench actually has a very inexperienced look about it so let’s hope they can keep their First XV on the park. 

The Brumbies may reportedly have a ‘test quality pack’ but anyone that takes the beefed-up Force forwards lightly will get their comeuppance.

For example, they were completely dominant last week in the set piece and at the breakdown against the Reds, admittedly in a trial only, but for all intents and purposes they were fairly close to First XV selections.

There are seven players in the pack who are or have been internationals at some stage or other including Captain Sharpe, who’s playing his 5oth match for the franchise.   

The mouth watering highlight will be the battle at the breakdown between two sets of international loose forwards.

It doesn’t get any better than now retired Wallaby St George Smith against ‘the King is dead, long live the King’ Bam Bam Pocock (new vc).

Not only that, some of the backline match-ups will be interesting with Matt Giteau (if he passes a fitness test) up against Bart, Lealiifaino against the direct running Harris and Mortlock v Cross.   

I think the Force will be very keen to come away with a win at their new stadium and lay down a marker for future home matches, which have been a bit of a bogey for them in the past.

Sharpe’s challenge will be to maintain the rage from last year when they defeated the other three Australian provinces.

A successful year will make it a whole lot easier to retain some of those players who may be sniffing the breeze from the Garden State and other tropical locations. 

Western Force v Brumbies:

Nic Henderson, Pek Cowan, Matt Dunning, Sam Wykes, Nathan Sharpe (c), Matt Hodgson, David Pocock (vc), Richard Brown, Brett Sheehan, Mark Bartholomeusz, Cameron Shepherd, Sam Harris, Ryan Cross, Dane Haylett-Petty, James O’Connor
 
Reserves: Ben Whittaker, Tim Fairbrother, Richard Stanford, Ben McCalman, Chris O’Young, Mitch Inman, Josh Tatupu

  • Joe M

    Is Cam Shepheard taking the kicking duties?

    • Eddo

      Not likely. JOC was taking the shots against the reds

      • JOC was taking any kick closer than about 35-40m, with shep kicking anything further out, at least that was how they looked like they were organising it on the night.

  • Hawko

    Putting Shepherd on the wing and O’Connor at fullback is a terrible waste of talent. I’d rather have O’Connor at inside centre and Shepherd at fullback. Shepherd for mine is the best fullback in Aussie. The team selected shows that the Force just do not have enough depth in three or four spots this year. A couple of key injuries now and their season is over.
    Maybe Sheehan to kick the short ones and Shepherd for long range?

    • Ed

      but, as said by lance, who goes on the wing then? Things will change for the better later in the season when injuries are overcome

  • dont know if its already been discussed elsewhere but ive heard it said somewhere that Cam Shephard has lingering question marks over his foot/knee and the move tot he wing is to cut down on his kicking duties as he returns from surgery. he may well be crooked permanately.

  • Lance Free

    With Giteau out I think the gap between the teams will be closer than most pundits predict.

    I guess we’ll see tomorrow whether Shepherd still has the fitness and dexterity after his successive injuries but I couldn’t see Mitch playing him if he didn’t.

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    • Noddy

      totally, and I think Barto’s match fitness will show him up in the last quarter.

ACT Brumbies
@@LanceFree

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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