The Emirates Western Force has included six Test players for their historic tour match against the British & Irish Lions at Patersons Stadium on Wednesday night.
Matt Hodgson (six Tests) will captain the side in a starting line-up that also features Wallaby front-rower Salesi Ma’afu (13 Tests), No.8 Richard Brown (23 Tests), scrumhalf Brett Sheehan (6 Tests) and pivot Sam Norton-Knight (two Tests). Ex-All Black Alby Mathewson (four Tests) will start from the bench and provide coverage at scrumhalf.
The players represent six of the most experienced players within the Emirates Western Force squad, with a combined total of 510 Super Rugby caps between them.
The Emirates Western Force will back up four days later for their Week 17 Super Rugby fixture against the NSW Waratahs at nib Stadium.
Head Coach Michael Foley says the tight schedule is a unique challenge but provides an exciting opportunity for his players.
“The British & Irish Lions tour represents a special occasion for the players involved and everyone was keen to put their hands up for selection,” he said.
“From the outset we recognised the need to approach this week as an entire squad. To that end, every available member of our squad, a number from our wider training group, and club players from Perth and elsewhere will get opportunities against the Lions and Waratahs.
“We’ve included some of our most experienced players to provide leadership against a Lions squad we have a great deal of respect for.
“The effort in training over the past week has shown how much Wednesday’s match means to this squad and they’ll be determined against many of the best international players from the Northern Hemisphere.”
Joining Ma’afu in the front row is former Australian Under 20 prop Salesi Manu and James Hilterbrand, who has been part of the Force’s match day 22 for their past six Super Rugby matches.
Super Rugby veteran Toby Lynn and Phoenix Battye will pack down at lock, while Angus Cottrell, who has started seven matches at blindside flanker for the Force this season, has been named with Hodgson and Brown in the back row.
Winger Dane Haylett-Petty, who played nine Super Rugby matches for the Emirates Western Force between 2008 and 2010, will return to join the Western Australian side, having represented French club, Biarritz, since 2010. He will be joined in the back three by Sam Christie, who started at flyhalf in the Force’s opening two matches of the 2013 Super Rugby season, and winger Corey Brown, who was a member of the Force’s Wider Training Group and leading try-scorer in the 2012 Shute Shield competition.
Emirates Western Force squad members Chris Tuatara-Morrison and ex-Australian Sevens representative Ed Stubbs will make up the Western Australian midfield.
The Force has included Cottesloe utility and 2012 PG Hampshire winner Nick Haining on the bench, while former IRB Junior World Championship front-rowers Hugh Roach (Australia), Tim Metcher (Australia) and Sione Kolo (Fiji) will receive their first opportunities with the Western Australian side.
Wider Training Group member and Northern Suburbs lock Ben Matwijow, Force back-rower Lachlan McCaffrey and winger Junior Rasolea have also been selected on the reserves list.
The last time a Western Australian side faced the British & Irish Lions was during the 2001 visit, with the tourists claiming a comprehensive 116-10 win at the WACA.
1. Salesi Manu (8 SR)
2. James Hilterbrand (1 SR)
3. Salesi Ma’afu (72 SR, 13 Tests)
4. Toby Lynn (61 SR)
5. Phoenix Battye (11 SR)
6. Angus Cottrell (15 SR)
7. Matt Hodgson (c) (95 SR, 6 Tests)
8. Richard Brown (88 SR, 23 Tests)
9. Brett Sheehan (92 SR, 6 Tests)
10. Sam Norton-Knight (66 SR, 2 Tests)
11. Corey Brown (Uncapped)
12. Chris Tuatara-Morrison (Uncapped)
13. Ed Stubbs (6 SR)
14. Dane Haylett-Petty (9 SR)
15. Sam Christie (4 SR)
16. Hugh Roach (Uncapped)
17. Sione Kolo (Uncapped)
18. Tim Metcher (Uncapped)
19. Ben Matwijow (Uncapped)
20. Lachlan McCaffrey (8 SR)
21. Alby Mathewson (97 SR, 4 Tests)
22. Nick Haining (Uncapped)
23. Junior Rasolea (10 SR)