Wallaby scrumhalf Brett Sheehan will complete a successful return from injury when he joins the Emirates Western Force’s starting line-up to face the Chiefs at ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe on Friday night.
Sheehan made his nib Stadium homecoming off the bench in the Emirates Western Force’s 11-all draw with the Queensland Reds last weekend after recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the Wallabies’ 22-19 win over Italy in November.
The 33-year-old, who will play his 90th Super Rugby match this week, will run on for star recruit Alby Mathewson, who has been named on the reserves list after starting in each of the Force’s 11 Super Rugby fixtures in 2013.
The other change to the Emirates Western Force starting XV sees Jayden Hayward return to fullback, where he has started on three occasions this season.
Emirates Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley says it’s important the Force builds on their character-defining performance against the Reds.
“Our performance versus the Reds can be directly attributed to the squad’s hard work and desire to play for each other and our supporters” he said.
“Being able to repeat good performances is something every team aspires to and I believe the boys are taking important steps towards achieving consistency through the high standards they’re setting and expecting of each other.
Foley added that Friday presents a good test for his side against the New Zealand conference front-runners.
“The Chiefs are the reigning Super Rugby champions and we see the match on Friday night as an exciting challenge,” he said.
“We will need to reproduce the same guts we showed in defence against the Reds as well as ensuring our decision-making, work rate and accuracy with the ball allows us to build consistent pressure on the Chiefs.
“We’re in a fortunate position to have depth at ‘9’ with Alby, Brett and Mick Snowden, and having Brett return to the field last week allows us to use two internationals as part of our match squad against the Chiefs.”
Flanker Matt Hodgson will lead the side in a record 93rd Super Rugby appearance for the Emirates Western Force – eclipsing the previous record held by inaugural captain Nathan Sharpe (92 caps).
Hodgson, who took over the captaincy this season, was a member of the Emirates Western Force’s foundation side in 2006 and has been an unrelenting performer for the Western Australians, recognised by his two Player of the Year Awards for the club (2009, 2010) and three Force Man gongs (2006, 2007, 2010).
“As a team, we’re all thrilled for Hodgo,” Foley said. “He is someone who is respected throughout the entire Force family.
“His hard work and commitment to the club is recognised within the team and by our staff and supporters. I’m certain the boys will be keen to do their bit to make it a memorable occasion for him tomorrow night.”
1. Pek Cowan
2. Heath Tessmann
3. Kieran Longbottom
4. Toby Lynn
5. Sam Wykes
6. Matt Hodgson (c)
7. Chris Alcock
8. Ben McCalman
9. Brett Sheehan
10. Sias Ebersohn
11. Nick Cummins
12. Kyle Godwin
13. Ben Jacobs
14. Patrick Dellit
15. Jayden Hayward
16. James Hilterbrand
17. Tetera Faulkner
18. Rory Walton
19. Richard Brown
20. Alby Mathewson
21. Junior Rasolea
22. Sam Norton-Knight