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Relevant media articles will be linked on this page to make it easier for you to follow Matt and his activities in rugby, career and other activities beyond work.

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Force duo on bench for the Wallabies

Nick Taylor, The West Australian September 2, 2014

Matt Hodgson with ball fendinging

Western Force captain Matt Hodgson joins teammate prop Pek Cowan on the Wallabies bench for Saturday’s clash with South Africa at Patersons Stadium.

If Hodgson is called up it will be his seventh Test and his first appearance since July 2011 when, ironically, he played against the Springboks.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made three changes to the starting side with a new playmaking partnership in scrum-half Nick Phipps and fly-half Bernard Foley.

James Hanson starts at hooker after the injury to Force rake Nathan Charles in the last Test.

Kurtley Beale will be used off the bench while the retirement of Pat McCabe has brought a further reshuffle to the backline with vice-captain Adam Ashley Cooper shifting back to the wing and Tevita Kuridrani getting a call-up at outside centre.

McKenzie has opted for a forward-heavy 6-2 split on the bench with second row James Horwill hooker Saia Fainga’a getting their first opportunities for the year.

McKenzie said the changes reflected the different challenge they would face against South Africa.

“While the size of the challenge isn’t any easier this week, the South Africans do play a unique brand of Rugby which we will need to adjust to,” McKenzie said.

“That’s reflected in our selections somewhat, where we feel the partnership of Nick and Bernard will best suit the style of game we’ll be trying to play.

“They’ve got a proven combination at a Super Rugby level and we look forward to seeing how that translates into the Test environment.

“It’s naturally disappointing for the two guys who missed out on the starting team in Nic and Kurtley, but the reality is we have a lot of good players in those playmaking positions.

“We expect them to respond in a positive manner and to make an impact playing an important role in how we close out the match.”

McKenzie said the bench would be important against the South Africans.

“We’ve been really impressed with the variety South Africa has brought to their game in recent times, but traditionally they are a forward-orientated side which uses their size, power and set-piece to put pressure on the opposition,” he said.

“You have to confront that head-on and match fire with fire. The addition of an extra forward also offers us greater flexibility in how we approach our substitutions.

“James has been working really hard to push his way back into the match day squad, and I’ve been really impressed with how he has gone about his work. He will also bring the added benefit of giving us an additional lineout jumping option when he’s on the field.

“Matt Hodgson also deserves a special mention. He’s been doing everything he can on and off the field to get an opportunity, and has been the ultimate team man in the process. We look forward to seeing what he’ll bring to the match.”

Wallabies: James Slipper, James Hanson, Sekope Kepu, Sam Carter, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper (capt), Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau. Reserves: Saia Fainga’a, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Nic White, Kurtley Beale.

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Force Wallabies get into the spirit of new contest

Nick Taylor, The West Australian July 23rd 2014

Perth Spirit Logo

Western Force Wallabies Matt Hodgson, Nathan Charles and Ben McCalman have been aligned to Perth Spirit in the new National Rugby Championship while Pek Cowan has been linked to the North Harbour Rays.

It is understood Cowan wants to spend time with family in Sydney during the early part of the Force off-season.

Players chosen for the Wallabies in the upcoming Rugby Championship will not play for NRC clubs but will act as ambassadors.

Most players are aligned to the NRC team that is affiliated with their premier club. Each team is entitled to four Test players outside their 33-man contracted squad.

The ARU’s Andrew Fagan said the allocations were an important milestone for the competition, which starts next month.

“Rugby fans have a strong connection to their national representatives, so it’s important for them to know which players are affiliated with their chosen NRC teams,” Fagan said.

“The alignment of current Test players is significant for the promotion of individual teams and the competition, while the potential still exists for players to train or play with their affiliated NRC team when they are not on international duty.

“Feedback we’ve received about the NRC from our Test representatives has been positive.

“They are looking forward to being ambassadors for the competition and helping to shape and influence the culture of their respective NRC teams.”

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/sport/a/24526824/force-wallabies-get-into-the-spirit-of-new-contest/

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Super Rugby’s beaten battlers: what went wrong for the Hurricanes, Force, Bulls & Blues?

Sam Bruce, Fox Sports July 17, 2014

As Super Rugby’s top six teams prepare to fight it out during the finals, we’ve taken a step back to review the beaten battlers of 2014.

It’s all too easy to get lost in the three-week play-offs series and forget about the less fortunate fans — those whose teams were either not quite, or nowhere near — good enough to feature in this year’s Super Rugby finals.

We’ve reviewed the 2014 season for the clubs that finished in positions 10-7, hoping to shed some light on where it went wrong in their respective conferences and in the overall competition.

HURRICANES — SEVENTH

What went wrong?

It was another case of what might have been for the Hurricanes as they finished just outside the top six yet again. Mark Hammett’s side made a disastrous start to the season as they dropped their first three encounters — and four of their first five — while a lack of consistency towards the back end of the competition ultimately cost them a semi-final place. Late-season injuries to skipper Conrad Smith, breakout centre Alapati Leiua and backrower Victor Vito also hurt their playoff hopes.

What went right?

At full flight there wasn’t a better backline in the competition. After struggling through the early part of the season halfback TJ Perenara finally found some form, attracting some of the focus away from flyhalf Beauden Barrett. With a little more space to work in, Barrett freed up the likes of Julian Savea, Andre Taylor, Leiua and others, allowing them to score some of the finest tries of the season. In the forwards, prop Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen and All Blacks hooker Dane Coles continued their improvement both at set-piece and in the loose.

Standout performer

Their season may be over but Barrett’s announcement that he would be staying on in the Kiwi capital has given Wellingtonians at least some reason to smile as they watch the playoffs with envy. Barrett was — along with Waratahs No. 10 Bernard Foley — the form five-eighth of the regular season, scoring 192 points from 14 games. The 23-year-old is blessed with a fine all-round game, and is clearly the man around which new coaches Chris Boyd and John Plumtree can build their team.

Looking towards 2015

The likes of Leiua, Taylor and Jack Lam are departing but there is still more than enough talent for incoming coaches Boyd and Plumtree to work with over the next few seasons. All Blacks No. 12 Ma’a Nonu will rejoin the franchise which would give the Canes a Test-strength 9-10-12-13 combination. The biggest question mark lies in their consistency and whether the new coaching team can prevent the simple mistakes and poor decision-making that continue to haunt the franchise at critical points.

FORCE — EIGHTH

What went wrong?

It’s hard to find too many negatives in what was a history-making season for the Force but coming so close to a first ever playoffs appearance is likely to be little consolation for Michael Foley’s side. Heavy defeats to the Waratahs and Brumbies marked a tough start to the season but it was a horror first 20 minutes against the Blues — who hadn’t won away from home in 13 games — that ultimately killed off their season. Injuries to backs Kyle Godwin, Luke Morahan and Alby Mathewson robbed the Force of some of its top attacking talent for large chunks of the season.

What went right?

After dropping their first two matches the obituaries were already being written for the Force and coach Michael Foley. But five straight wins later they were the talk of the competition and while they missed out on the playoffs, they were easily the biggest improvers of 2014. Much of that was down to their hard-working forward pack, particularly backrowers Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman who were two of the top loose forwards in the competition. Foley looks to have instilled a great culture in the west and one the squad can build on in the years to come.

Matt Hodgson led the competition for tackles and was the Force’ second highest try-scorer

If it wasn’t for a bloke by the name of Michael Hooper, Matt Hodgson would have been one of the first names on the Wallabies teamsheet against France. The Force skipper had probably his finest ever Super Rugby season as he terrorised opposition teams at the breakdown, burrowed away in search of five-pointers close to the line and defended right up until the final whistle. Hodgson finished the season with a competition-high 234 tackles — 53 more than second-placed Warren Whiteley (Lions) and Nasi Manu (Highlanders).

Looking towards 2015

It was a breakout year for the Force and one where they made significant improvements in both attack and defence. But if they’re to continue that upward trend in 2015 they need to sign a player with genuine X-factor. That may be easier said than done considering there are so few of those in Australia with an overseas recruit perhaps being their best option. Getting more playing time out of rising star Kyle Godwin will also be crucial after his season was cut short by injury for the second straight year.

BULLS — NINTH

What went wrong?

They were by no means the only offenders but a failure to pick up a win in Australasia was always going to make the playoffs a difficult proposition for the Bulls. In fact, the Pretoria-based side couldn’t find a win away from their Loftus Versfeld fortress as they also dropped each of their local derbies on the road in the Republic. That was largely down to kick first, run later game-plan — a recipe that saw them finish the season with the competition’s fewest tries (28).

What went right?

You know it’s been a lean year when one of your few highlights is the return of a 37-year-old lock who started the season as part of the coaching staff. In fairness to Springboks great Victor Matfield, it was as if he’d never left. The veteran lock remains a lineout general and showed he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level. Elsewhere, the Bulls look to have unearthed a long-term option at No. 10 with Junior World Player of the Year Handre Pollard impressing at flyhalf.

Standout performer

With an outstanding 73 lineout takes it’s hard to go past Matfield as the Bulls’ player of the season. There was also a lovely linebreak and dummy against the Brumbies in round 15 which erased any doubts as to whether he still had any value as a ball-carrier.

Looking towards 2015

In a season where attacking rugby has dominated, no team needs to overhaul their structure more than the three-time champion Bulls. Fortunately, Handre Pollard looks to be a No. 10 with a strong running and passing game while in the likes of Jan Serfontein and Francois Hougaard there is ample attacking threat to trouble opposition defences. Some simple coaching adjustments could have the Bulls back in the playoffs in 2015.

BLUES — 10TH

What went wrong?

First up it would be remiss of us not to mention the ridiculous recruitment of Benji Marshall. The NRL star eventually returned to the game where he made his name but the damage had already been done. Coach John Kirwan hoped Marshall could solve the club’s long-running issue at No. 10 but he’d have been far better served by promoting Ihaia West to the role earlier in the season. Marshall’s failed recruitment along with an inability to win on the road — Perth aside — saw the Blues miss the semis for the third straight year.

What went right?

They enjoyed travelling about as much as a carsick kid but the Blues did turn Eden Park into somewhat of a fortress in 2014. They were only beaten at the home of New Zealand rugby in the final-round clash with the Chiefs while the Sharks were the only other team to beat them up north (Albany). They’re also building a backline oozing with young talent while Jerome Kaino made an outstanding return to Super Rugby after a couple of seasons in Japan.

Standout performer

Virtually unheard of outside of New Zealand before the season’s start, Patrick Tuipulotu is now an All Blacks lock who should feature throughout The Rugby Championship. The 21-year-old had one of the highest workrates of any lock in the competition and made 10 or more runs on three separate occasions this season. He is a forward the Blues pack can build their team around for many years to come.

Looking towards 2015

Two seasons in charge have finished with successive 10th-place finishes for Blues coach John Kirwan — a failure to reach the playoffs again next year will surely see his tenure end. Luckily Kirwan has some of New Zealand’s finest raw talent at his disposal which, with the right man at No. 10, could challenge for the title. Whether West, Simon Hickey or someone else fills that role remains to be seen but it again appears to be the great problem holding the Blues back.

http://www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/super-rugby/super-rugbys-beaten-battlers-what-went-wrong-for-the-hurricanes-force-bulls-blues/story-e6frf4qu-1226992016495

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Brumbies out to deny ruck-barnacle Hodgson

David Barbeler ESPN July 10, 2014

Matt Hodgson

Operation deny Matt Hodgson.

No Super Rugby player has pilfered as much or forced more turnovers this season than the immovable Western Force flanker and captain.

Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen knows it. And his team has specifically planned for it ahead of Friday’s quasi-final at Canberra Stadium.

“Hodgson is obviously leading the competition with pilfers, so we’ve got to make sure we’re denying contests there and not letting him in – because once he’s in, he’s good enough to turn it over,” Mowen says.

“If we’re good in that area, we’ll come away with a good result.”

Fortunately for the Brumbies they won’t have to also budge burly blindside flanker Hugh McMeniman, who copped a one-week suspension for kneeing in last week’s win over the Queensland Reds.

He’ll be replaced by Brynard Stander.

“Losing players always hurts, but I suppose the Brumbies would feel the same way about Stephen Moore,” said Force coach Michael Foley.

However the Brumbies will welcome back numerous Test players, including workhorse Sam Carter.

The once-underrated lock features in the top two for most tackles and rucks hit in almost every game he plays.

Mowen admits there’s probably no team more important for Carter to return against than the breakdown-dominant Force.

“He’s gone from a big performer for us to a man-of-the-match Wallaby,” Mowen said.

Also returning for the Brumbies will be Test star Matt Toomua at five-eighth, while fit-again third string hooker Josh Mann-Rea will steady the set-piece.

The winner of the match is guaranteed a spot in the Super Rugby finals, while the loser will need to pick up a losing bonus point to have a chance of remaining in the competition.

That’s easier said than done for the Brumbies, who haven’t won a last round match since 2007 – their chokes against the Force last year and the Blues the year before costing them dearly.

The Force have listed Nick Cummins to play in what could possibly be his last Super Rugby match before jetting off to Japan, while former reserve Brumbies halves Zack Holmes and Ian Prior will be out to prove a point against their old teammates.

The game will also be Ben Mowen’s 49th as Brumbies captain – equalling the club record of legend George Gregan.

Force: Jayden Hayward, Dane Haylett-Petty, Solomoni Rasolea, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Nick Cummins, Zack Holmes, Ian Prior, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson (c), Brynard Stander, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Sam Wykes, Kieran Longbottom, Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan. Res: Heath Tessmann, Tetera Faulkner, Oliver Hoskins, Adam Coleman, Chris Alcock, Alby Mathewson, Luke Burton, Dillyn Leyds/Sias Ebersohn.

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Clyde Rathbone, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (c), Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Leon Power, Ben Alexander, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Res: Ruaidhri Murphy, Ruan Smith, JP Smith, Fotu Auelua, Tom McVerry, Michael Dowsett, Joe Tomane, Pat McCabe.

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-sport/brumbies-out-to-deny-ruckbarnacle-hodgson-20140710-3botc.html

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Nick Cummins stars as Force maintain finals bid

ESPN Staff  July 5, 2014
Matt Hodgson
Western Force have kept alive the quest for their maiden appearance in the Super Rugby finals, defeating Queensland Reds by 10 points in Nick Cummins’ final match at nib Stadium before the Wallabies wing heads to Japan.
The Force looked to be on target for the bonus-point victory that would have seen them replace the Brumbies in the top six when they led the Reds 17-3 inside 20 minutes, through tries from Cummins and Ben McCalman, two of their season’s stars. But they failed to put away the Reds, who were awful in the first half yet went to the sheds just seven points adrift after a fine individual try from rookie centre Samu Kerevi shortly before the break converted by Mike Harris.
Jayden Hayward missed two simple penalty attempts to settle the nerves of the home fans, and the Sea of Blue were given cause to get even more agitated when the Reds drove Albert Anae over for a converted try from a lineout move.
The Reds had all the momentum with 10 minutes to play but Hayward landed a penalty goal and Force captain Matt Hodgson then inspired the home troops with a brutal cleanout after a poor lineout to get the hosts on the front foot. Brynard Stander and Hayward kept the charge alive and hooker Nathan Charles rampaged under the posts to score the match-securing try.
The Force searched in vain for their fourth try, and they now head to Canberra to play the Brumbies in what shapes as a winner-takes-all clash at GIO Stadium next week.”There’s no fat lady, yet, and we’re still in the fight, mate,” Cummins said about the Force’s finals hopes. “Next week should be a monster in Canberra. Should be good.”
Hodgson said the team had laid the platform for victory in the opening quarter, in which their performance was a polar opposite to that in the same period against the Blues the week before.
“That first 20 was probably our best 20 of the year,” Hodgson said. “We went up and down, but it was good to get a win a stay alive.”
Reds captain James Horwill lamented “missed opportunities” and “silly errors”, as has been the case for much of this season, but he paid tribute to the Force’s forwards – in particular their back-row of Hugh McMeniman, Hodgson and McCalman – saying “they pressured us at the breakdown, and we probably weren’t efficient enough there”.
Cummins was involved heavily in the early stages, and he created the opportunity from which he scored the opening try of the match when he tackled Rod Davies into touch. The Force won the ensuing lineout, and Cummins received a good pass from Sam Wykes, broke the tackle of Davies and cruised over the try line.The Force soon led 17-3 when McCalman was awarded a try set up by a run from Chris Tuatara Morrison and good lead-up work by Wykes and Cummins. But the game started going the Reds’ way after Hugh McMeniman dropped a knee on a grounded Ben Lucas. McMeniman received a yellow card, and was subsequently cited for the offence by the citing commissioner, who believed the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play, and the Reds got on the board with run-on debutant Kerevi scoring a soft try while the Force lock was in the sin-bin.
Hayward nailed his third penalty attempt in the second half, to put the Force 20-10 up, before Anae scored the first try of his career on the back of a rolling maul. Harris landed another penalty to level the scores before Hayward kicked his final goal and Charles scored the try that iced the contest.
Force coach Michael Foley was delighted with his team’s response from their thumping by the Blues seven days previously.
“Last week was a pretty scratchy performance for us and we were really honest about it early in the week,” Foley said. “it hurt us and so it should have. We didn’t play our best footy of this year but we got the win – and we had to get that win to keep us alive, and that’s really important to even go beyond winning eight games which is one better than the club’s best ever performance. We just have to play better next week.”
Reds coach Richard Graham was unhappy both with his team’s start to the game and the refereeing decisions as the game unfolded.
“In the first 15 minutes we weren’t in the contest at all,” Graham said. “And when we got ourselves back into the contest, we didn’t build any continuity and turned the ball over too easily. We couldn’t build any pressure that way and I probably don’t think that we got the rub of the green which made it quite difficult for us.”

http://www.espnscrum.com/super-rugby-2014/rugby/story/232269.html#8fUhiiPIhXmssHXV.99

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It’s a Wrap, and a Super one at that

Super Wrap 23 July 2014

Matt Hodgson closes down the run of a Rebel in his 100th Super Rugby game

Only one side in a six-team playoff series and the rest of our teams comfortably in the bottom half of the log. That is the sad story of South Africa’s participation in this year’s Super Rugby tournament.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but not if that picture is a snapshot of the points-table this year. You’ll be happy if you get 500 usable ones as the majority will be of the unpublishable four-letter variety.

The bad news doesn’t stop there either. It’s the end of the season, meaning it’s time for the SuperWrap to reveal its teams of the year.

The Super XV, for those new to this game, is a team selected on a weekly basis by our selection panel and in answer to only this question: who was the best in a particular position this past weekend? The Bok Barometer is selected in the same way, but limited to players that are eligible to play for South Africa and represents one of our teams.

Then, once a year, we add up instances of selection and the players with the most ticks behind their names get in our team for the year. It is a time-honoured Wrap tradition and, theoretically, it should give us a list of players who held their form the longest in this marathon season that is now winding down.

This year we ended up with only three South Africans in the Super XV and one of them is not even a Springbok.

This number will hardly be a shock for anyone who has watched this year’s edition. It should, however, be a worry for Springbok fans as we prepare to face the might of the Southern Hemisphere in this year’s Rugby Championship.

New Zealand, in contrast, contributes more than half the team. This seems fair enough as the also contributed half of this year’s playoff contenders. They had four teams in the running right until the final week of league action, and they may very well had all four in the playoffs if it wasn’t for the fact that they had to play each other so often.

Australia is not so lucky. They have only four players in the Super XV and their biggest star, Israel Folau, didn’t even make it. You’d have expected better representation given that they have two teams in this weekend’s semifinals and are undoubtedly title favourites.

Not everybody will be happy with our Bok Barometer team either.

The team, as can be expected is dominated by Sharks who provided us with six members. The Lions, who gave us three, will also be happy with how they are represented.

On the other side of the scale we have the Stormers with only one team member. Here at the Wrap desk we’ve often been accused of being biased against the Cape side, and this year those critics seem to have a point. All we can say in our defence is that if a B-team was counted out then all of Nizaam Carr, Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Damien de Allende would have made it.

The most exciting aspect of the Bok Barometer team, however, is the fact that surprisingly few of our selection are Springbok regulars. A B-team would have had even more young talent, so things are looking quite bright in terms of what we have coming through the ranks.

Before we reveal our teams a couple of quick notes on ties and how we broke them:

At flyhalf in the Bok barometer teams we had a three-way tie between Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Handre Pollard and Marnitz Boshoff. We decided to go with the Lions playmaker since he was selected into the Super XV more than the others.

In the Super XV we had a tie at hooker between Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss. Bismarck made it into the Bok Barometer more often, giving him the nod for both.

At lock we had to decide between Victor Matfield and Brodie Retallick. This one was tougher to break but in the end we decided the latter’s all-round game trumped the influence of the formers lineout work.

The loose-forwards saw another couple of ties. Our decision was to choose an open-side six, a blindside seven and a traditional eight. Votes in all positions were counted and added with the most popular in each of those roles getting the nod.
This column also brings to an end the Wrap team’s efforts for this year. Thanks to everyone that read and participated, we hope you had your fair share of fun and laughter with us. We’ll see you again at kickoff early next year.

Until then, here are our final teams of the year:

Super XV for 2014:
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders),14. Henry Speight (Brumbies), 13. Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders), 12. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs), 11. Nemani Nadolo (Crusaders), 10. Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), 9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), 8. Warren Whiteley (Lions), 7. Steven Luatua (Blues), 6. Matt Hodgson (Force), 5. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), 4. Will Skelton (Waratahs), 3. Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs), 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), 1. Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks).

Bok Barometer for 2014:
15. Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 14. Akona Ndugane (Bulls), 13. Juan de Jongh (Stormers), 12. Frans Steyn (Sharks), 11. Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), 10. Marnitz Boshoff (Lions), 9. Cobus Reinach (Sharks), 8. Warren Whiteley (Lions), 7. Jacques du Plessis (Bulls), 6. Jaco Kriel (Lions), 5. Victor Matfield (Bulls), 4. Lood de Jager (Cheetahs), 3. Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks).

http://www.supersport.com/rugby/super rugby/news/140723/Its_a_Wrap_and_a_Super_one_at_that

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Western Force skipper Matt Hodgson – from rock bottom to Captain Granite

www.news.com.au  APRIL 27, 2014

Hodgo Tunnel shot ball up

HE’S the captain who’s been there since day dot and the first man to play 100 games for the club.
He’s also, as head coach Michael Foley puts it, the “rock’’ anchoring the Force.
Matt Hodgson has been through the WA rugby club’s darkest days since its inception in 2006 and he’s suffered more than his fair share of defeats.
But that makes the 2014 turnaround and a string of victories more sweet, he said.
The beefy flanker, who has also played for Australia, became captain in 2012 when the Western Force were at rock bottom but “never’’ questioned whether to stay.
“The difference is that the players all call Perth home and they’re not playing for their own glory,” Hodgson said.
Foley said there was no one who better embodied the club.

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Force heart becomes vital rugby weapon

www.smh.com.au   April 27, 2014   Justin Chadwick

Hodgo Cannon ball vs Bulls

On paper, the Western Force don’t possess the starpower to reach the Super Rugby finals.
But the team’s heart and commitment to the cause has left them with a prime chance to defy the naysayers by securing a top-six berth.

The Force rose to fourth on the standings after grinding out a 15-9 win over the Bulls in Perth, with flyhalf Sias Ebersohn nailing five penalties in the wet to secure the victory.

Four wins from their remaining seven games should be enough for the Force to seal a maiden finals berth. Five wins might get them a home final.

The buzz surrounding the Perth-based franchise is in stark contrast to the start of the year, when the Force were tipped to collect the wooden spoon after losing their opening two games.

While the Waratahs, Brumbies and Reds possessed outfits laden with Wallabies, the Force were nothing more than a working-class team featuring a host of rugby rejects.

But what the Force lacked in starpower, they made up for in heart.

Even a host of injuries to key players hasn’t shaken their belief.
Scrumhalf Alby Mathewson (ankle) and winger Luke Morahan (hamstring) are at least a month away from resuming, while lock Hugh McMeniman (collarbone) and flanker Chris Alcock (shoulder) won’t be available until the last few rounds.

But still the Force fairytale rolls on.

Next week’s bye will give the players a chance to rest up their battered and bruised bodies, before the team embarks on a crunch two-game tour of South Africa where they’ll take on the struggling Cheetahs and Stormers.

Force coach Michael Foley believes his team’s character is the major reason behind their run of six wins from their past seven games.

“The quality of the man behind the player is the thing that’s getting us a lot of those results at the moment,” Foley said.

“To the credit of all the guys, they make all the sacrifices and commit to each other.

“All we have to remember is keep doing that, and everything else will take care of itself.

“Where we are on the table right now is not something we should be focused on.”

But while Foley is playing it cool, Force fans are daring to dream of a golden campaign after enduring eight previous years of pain.

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Force rise to third after win over Bulls

www.smh.com.au   April 27, 2014   Justin Chadwick

Hodgo team celebration after Bulls win

PERTH: The Western Force were left singing in the rain after producing their trademark grit in a 15-9 win over the Bulls in Saturday night’s Super Rugby clash in Perth.

On a wet and slippery night, a perfect five-from-five penalties from Sias Ebersohn was enough to lift the Force over the line, with the result catapulting the Perth-based franchise into third spot on the table.

The Force were made to defend grimly in the last 10 minutes, with players bravely putting their bodies on the line time and again to deny the Bulls’ surge to the line.

Brynard Stander typified the Force’s efforts, with the substitute flanker left with blood streaming from his head after contesting several desperate breakdowns in the dying minutes.

Although the Force came away with the win and improved their work at the scrum, their line-outs remain a worry, with a number of throws being pilfered by the Bulls.

However they have next week’s bye to work on any issues before their two-game tour of South Africa.
The first half was akin to a game of chess, with both sides employing a kick-heavy game plan in their bid to gain valuable ground.

With the consistent rain making for slippery conditions, it was all a matter of who was going to blink first in the AFL-like kick-to-kicks.

It was the Bulls who erred – on multiple occasions.

Fullback Jurgen Visser made the first genuine blooper of the night when he stepped outside his own 22m as he kicked for touch.

Flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter was the next to falter when he dropped a high ball in his own 22m, while Visser made another error when he grassed Sias Ebersohn’s short chip.

Each mistake gave the Force excellent field position, but they couldn’t come close to the try line as the Bulls’ defence held firm.

Three penalties to man-of-the-match Ebersohn at least gave the Force a 9-6 edge at the break, and the scoreline read 12-6 when the flyhalf banged over another one shortly after the break.

With the rain holding off early in the second half, the Force started to employ more of a running game.
But it was still the high ball that was paying the biggest dividends, with the Force almost crossing in the 58th minute when winger Nick Cummins created a spillage and his teammates pounced on the loose ball.
Although the try didn’t eventuate, another penalty to Ebersohn extended the Force’s lead to nine points.

That gap was reduced to six in the 63rd minute, but the Force wouldn’t be denied victory in front of 14,227 screaming fans.

WESTERN FORCE 15 (Sias Ebersohn 5 pens) bt BULLS 9 (Jacques-Louis Potgieter 2, Handre Pollard pens) at nib Stadium. Referee: Angus Gardner. Crowd: 14,227.

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Force set to shut the door on James O’Connor and Reds now his only hope

www.smh.com.au    April 17, 2014    Georgina Robinson

Hodgo win vs tahs

James O’Connor’s move home to Australia is shrouded in uncertainty with the door to his old club the Western Force poised to swing shut in his face.

The Breakdown understands the Force decided earlier this month they wanted to spend the considerable funds required to sign the 44-Test Wallaby elsewhere.   It is a 180-degree turnaround from their position late last year.

Back then, the club put O’Connor through a vigorous vetting process, which included extensive discussions with head coach Michael Foley and senior players, plus several pointed public statements about “culture” and “team players”.

Crucially, the Force wanted to make it work. The door was open, albeit with significant caveats.

Times – and people – change. While O’Connor has been making a success of his move to London Irish, and has signed a lucrative short-term deal with Toulon for the start of the French Top 14 season, the Force have been quietly building their most successful early-season run in many years.

It has led to a major rethink in the west. Does the club need a superstar with the perceived baggage O’Connor carries?

Just as importantly, can it afford one? Finances are stretched in all the franchises and the Force are not immune.

Australian rugby’s new contracting structure, in which the Australian Rugby Union sets the grade at which a player must be paid, has further limited the flexibility of the provinces. They can only augment a player’s contract, or out bid a rival province, using third-party deals.

Unpalatable too are O’Connor’s Olympic sevens plans. Provinces do not want to be thought of as holding pens for players with grander ambitions. His constant talk of the World Cup and Olympics left many in Perth wondering where the club’s goals fitted into O’Connor’s list of priorities.

The shifting sands make a return to the Reds his only option in Australia.

But Queensland coach Richard Graham said a month ago there had been no contact between the parties “at this point” and it is understood the lines of communication have not exactly been crackling since then either.

But with Digby Ioane apparently not wanting to end his big-money deal in Paris, can the Reds afford to say no to O’Connor’s considerable gifts?

Fuelling the fire is talk the Reds are stalling on a number of off-contract players and might be pinching pennies for a bid for O’Connor. Again, there is little noise coming out of Queensland on this, and the slow going on re-signings is more likely due to the ARU’s contracting shake-up.

Could the homecoming dream really be over for O’Connor, one of Australia’s biggest recent names?

Hodgson the force behind the Force

There has never been a more frustratingly humble player than Western Force captain Matt Hodgson.

Asked about his role in the defensive effort that built the side’s historic 28-16 victory over NSW last weekend, Hodgson refused to take any individual credit.

He made 17 tackles and won three turnovers, and split the press box in the man of the match vote, which eventually went to his flashier teammate Nick Cummins.

“It was a team effort really – I was just lucky to be there, because if no one makes that tackle then I won’t get that turnover,” Hodgson said when asked about his performance after the match.

To another question he answered: “We’re a family and all 23 stood up tonight.”

But the Breakdown will say it for him: Matt Hodgson is the heart and soul of the “family” he speaks of and one of the most deserving of credit for the side’s current hard-fought purple patch.

O’Driscoll and Cummins make a tweet couple

It’s been around the web but needs to be recorded in print.
What do you get when you cross an Irish legend with an Australian upstart?
More than Brian O’Driscoll bargained for anyway.
The former Ireland centre thought he would quietly follow Wallabies and Force winger Cummins.
Sound idea for life after rugby, considering the great BOD will presumably have a bit more time to pore over the colourful C ummins back catalogue on YouTube.
Naturally, the Australian winger couldn’t let the follow go unmentioned. He kicked off the following hilarious exchange between the pair on Twitter last week.
Cummins: “Thanks for the add old son. When ya coming to Perth for a fish?”
O’Driscoll: “For a fish and a watch of the on [fire] Force! Soon bud. You’re killing it at the moment, rugby and chat …”
Cummins: “Last year we were all sizzle and no steak, this year we had a horror start but now we are off like a bride’s nightie.”
That was before Cummins’ hat-trick led to the Force’s unlikely win against the Waratahs, their fifth straight this season.
West Australians can only hope the honeymoon period doesn’t end too soon.

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Super Rugby mid-season report: Force towards maiden playoffs berth

SAM BRUCE FOX SPORTS APRIL 17, 2014

THE first half of the 2014 Super Rugby season is in the books, and with just nine points separating first from eighth the competition is set for a thrilling run home to the playoffs.

Here’s what we’ve made of the Western Force’s season so far …

Where they sit:

Not even the most optimistic Force fan could have expected such a stunning turnaround from Michael Foley’s men.

Belted by the Waratahs and Brumbies in the opening weeks, the Force have since won five on the trot to sit in fourth spot overall and just three points adrift of the Brumbies in the Aussie conference.

A simple game plan built on defence, and the tireless efforts of backrow warriors Ben McCalman and Matt Hodgson, is working a treat while an improved “team culture” has also been crucial.

And then there’s Nick “The Honey Badger” Cummins who’s not only generating truckloads of publicity but also getting it done on the paddock.

Star player:

It’s not easy beating teams when you prefer to play without the ball, especially when your opposition secures an incredible 69 per cent of possession just as the Waratahs did at the weekend.

Luckily for the Force, they have two breakdown workhorses in skipper Matt Hodgson and No. 8 Ben McCalman.

Unfortunately in this column we can only pick one standout player and for his ability to pilfer or force penalties at the breakdown that man is Hodgson.

The Force’s first 100-gamer has played himself back into Wallabies calculations with a string of super performances, and built some incredible numbers which includes three tries, one linebreak, six tackle busts, 44 runs for 184m, 117 tackles, six pilfers and four forced penalties.

Sore point: Imagine if the Force hadn’t suffered an early-season slumber? While he’s no doubt thrilled with five successive wins, back-to-back hammerings from the Waratahs and Brumbies in rounds two and three must be irking Michael Foley.

They were far from disgraced in Sydney but a limp showing in their first game at home against the Brumbies had many critics installing them as wooden-spoon favourites.

Those same critics are now running for cover. Still, it would be crying shame if those opening fixtures end up costing the Force a playoff spot.

The Western Force will aim for their sixth win in a row when they take on the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park on Friday night but face a tough challenge after being hit hard by injury.
Where to now: It looks to be one of the easier assignments in their run home but Friday night’s clash with the Rebels in Melbourne has slip-up written all over it.

They have a number of injury concerns and haven’t won at AAMI Park since 2011. However, they’ll take great confidence in their new-found ability to come through close games.

The Force have won three of their past four matches by three points or less compared to last season when five of their 11 defeats came by seven or less.

Maintaining momentum ahead of their South African tour will be crucial. Win the next two games and the Force will have one foot in the finals.

Run home:

Rebels (A), Bulls (H), Cheetahs (A), Stormers (A), Lions (H), Crusaders (A), Blues (H), Reds (H), Brumbies (A).

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Western Force stars Nick Cummins and Matt Hodgson make our R9 Super Rugby team of the week

www.news.com.au   APRIL 15, 2014

SUPER Rugby’s pacesetters enjoyed another successful round at the weekend with conference leaders the Brumbies, Sharks and Chiefs all recording victories.
The Brumbies and Chiefs didn’t have it all their own way though with both sides forced to battle right through to the 80th minute to secure the four points.
But the biggest result of the weekend came in Perth, where Western Force overturned an early-season hammering from the Waratahs to defeat their Australian rivals 28-16.
Read on to find out how many Force players made our round-nine team of the week!

1. Loosehead Prop – Jamie Mackintosh (Chiefs) was solid in his first start for the Chiefs in three weeks, getting through plenty of work in his 56 minutes on the field. Mackintosh made seven runs (23m), one offload, one tackle bust, one pilfer and seven tackles against the Rebels.

2. Hooker – Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) showed why he is the premier hooker in world rugby with his work at the breakdown against the Lions, ending the match with four forced ruck and maul penalties. Bismarck is leading the team brilliantly this season and also chipped in with five runs (21m) and five tackles.

3. Tighthead Prop – Ben Alexander (Brumbies) had his best game for the season for the Brumbies on Friday. The veteran front-rower made one linebreak, one linebreak assists, four runs (16m), two offloads, two tackle busts and seven tackles against the Reds.

4. Second Row – Mike Fitzgerald (Chiefs) scored his first Super Rugby try on the weekend and did plenty of work in defence against the Rebels. Fitzgerald made one linebreak, five runs (29m), three tackle busts, two lineout wins and 15 tackles.

5. Second Row – Luke Jones (Rebels) continues to push for a Wallabies jersey with another impressive performance on the weekend for the Rebels. Jones made a game-high 12 runs (47m), six lineout wins and nine tackles against the Chiefs.

6. Blindside – Although he wears the No.7 jersey for the Sharks, Jean Deysel (Sharks) is the blindside flanker in the team of the week. Deysel made 10 runs (62m), three tackle busts, two offloads, one pilfer, one forced penalty and eight tackles against the Lions.

7. Openside – Matt Hodgson (Force) continues his renaissance with the Force, leading his team to an unprecedented fifth straight victory. Hodgson made six runs (32), two pilfers, two forced penalties, and a game-high 18 tackles against the Waratahs.  Hodgson (C) has been at the centre of the Force revival.

8. No.8 – The Crusaders are making their trademark run to the finals and Kieran Read is leading the way. Read set up two of the Crusaders’ tries and also made one linebreak, five runs (34m), three lineout wins and five tackles.

9. Halfback – Nic White (Brumbies) was the pick of the halfbacks over the weekend, starring for the Brumbies in their win over the Reds. White scored 13 points, made one try assist, two linebreak assists, three runs, two offloads, two tackle busts and seven tackles.

10. Fly-half – Colin Slade’s (Crusaders) 25-point haul against the Cheetahs was the most he’s scored in a match in Super Rugby. Slade also finished the match with three tackle busts, one linebreak, one try assist and seven tackles.

11. Left Winger – The Honey Badger, Nick Cummins, (Force) became just the third Force player to score a hat-trick last week, and the first since Cameron Shepherd back in 2009. Cummins made only four runs but a massive 192m against the Waratahs, changing the course of the game with his runaway tries.
Western Force winger Nick Cummins says recent victories has brought about a change to the culture of his club and a renewed sense of belief.

12. Inside centre – Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) was the best of a beaten bunch for the Waratahs in the west. Beale scored his third try of the season, made one linebreak, 10 runs (117m), two tackle busts and four offloads.

13. Outside Centre – Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders) broke the game wide open against the Bulls, setting up Gareth Evans’ try which cracked the 13-13 deadlock. He then crossed for a try of his own and finished the game with a further try assist, two linebreaks, four runs (53m), two tackle busts and six tackles. Johan Sadie deserves a mention for efforts in getting the Cheetahs back into the game against the Crusaders.

14. Right winger – Although he plays on the left wing, we had to find room for Nemani Nadolo in the team so he makes a rare appearance on the right. Nadolo grabbed a hat-trick for the Crusaders and was near unstoppable with the ball, finishing the game with one linebreak, one linebreak assist, six runs (121m), one offload, seven tackle busts and three tackles. Nemani Nadolo, who grew up in Queensland, produced a sensational hattrick for the Crusaders against the Cheetahs.

15. Fullback – Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks) has been a solid performer for the Sharks in his new role at fullback. Mvovo proved the gamebreaker against the Lions with his try in the 67th minute, opening up a 10-point lead for his side and finished the game with two linebreaks, 12 runs (179m), one offload and nine tackle busts.

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Rugby R9 review: Brumbies, Force win local derbies; Nick Cummins stars, Israel Folau fumes

www.news.com.au   APRIL 14, 2014 (only exerts shown)

IT was a weekend of Super Rugby where Australia took centre stage, and the Brumbies and Force announced their title credentials.

Round nine was headlined by Aussie derbies in Brisbane and Perth, and neither game disappointed.

The Brumbies’ victory sees them maintain their lead at the top of the Aussie conference while the Force jump above the Waratahs following their rousing win at home.

Elsewhere, there were wins for the Highlanders, Chiefs, Crusaders and Sharks.

MEAT FRENZY AS HONEY BADGER FEASTS ON WARATAHS

If “The Honey Badger” looked hungry on Saturday night it was with good reason – he hadn’t tasted any “meat” since round two in Sydney.

But a five-match meat drought was quickly forgotten on Saturday night as Super Rugby’s No.1 cult figure scored his first Western Force hat-trick in a stunning 12-point victory over the Waratahs.

But it wasn’t just Nick Cummins’s performance that had tongues wagging in the west, with Israel Folau’s pre-match interview setting the tone for what would be a forgettable night for the visitors.

Speaking to Fox Sports ahead of kick-off, Folau said the ARU had failed to inform him they would be overruling the Waratahs’ decision and withdrawing him.

A clearly furious Folau understood the governing body was acting in his best interests but was bewildered with their failure to contact him before making the announcement.

Would the star fullback have made any difference? He certainly would have given the Waratahs an extra edge in attack but it’s unlikely he could have split a resolute Force defence with regularity.

Time after time the Force repelled the Waratahs, waiting for the perfect moment to strike at the breakdown. It was the same tactics the Brumbies and Sharks had used against Michael Cheika’s men, and it looks to be the blueprint for shutting down his star-studded backline.

If teams are prepared to be patient and not overcommit at the breakdown against the Waratahs, a strong defensive line will eventually present an opportunity to force a turnover after multiple phases.

The Force have now won five matches on trot and must be counted as serious playoff contenders. They’ll head east this week to face the Rebels at AAMI Park, a venue where they haven’t won since 2011.

But this is no ordinary Western Force season – just ask Nick Cummins.

Hodgo win vs tahs

LINK LIKES WHAT HE SEES FROM WALLABY HOPEFULS

Ewen McKenzie was a busy man at the weekend, taking in the Reds-Brumbies clash in Brisbane on Friday night and then dashing across the country the following day to Perth to watch the Force host the Waratahs.

Thankfully there was plenty for the Wallaby coach to enjoy both in the Sunshine State and way out west, namely the form of Australia’s Super Rugby players.

Brumbies halves Nic White and Matt Toomua probably edged Will Genia and Quade Cooper in Brisbane, while in Perth inside centre Kyle Godwin held his own as he squared off with Kurtley Beale.

The Australian sides – and players – are performing to a standard that pleases McKenzie, potentially giving him a welcome headache next month when he names his squad to face France in the three-Test series in June.

“There’s a lot of guys in Australian rugby in good form at the moment,” McKenzie told Fox Sports’ Rugby Central after the Force win on Saturday night.

“That’s going to make for a difficult job come May. That’s what you want, you want all the teams doing well, you want them all competing. From my point of view we want to see players playing at their best and we’re seeing plenty of that.”

One player who caught the eye at the weekend was flanker Matt Hodgson, who was at his workhorse best in making a game-high 18 tackles to lead Western Force to a famous fifth-straight victory.

McKenzie said the Force skipper had been impressive – and wasn’t worried by the fact he’ll be 33 by the time the third Test against Les Bleus comes around.

“I think he’s been playing really well,” McKenzie said.

“For me, being a Wallaby is about performing. I’m not going to sit there and worry about how old they are. Sure you’ve got to keep regenerating but in the end you’ve got to look for guys who are in-form, guys who know how to play and guys who can go out there and compete and there’s plenty of guys at the Force who are showing that at the moment.”

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Western Force continues to surprise

SMH April 14, 2014

Alby and Hodgo Tahs win

The Brumbies retain top spot but the Western Force are the talk of the Australian conference after extending their record Super Rugby winning streak to five matches with a gritty victory over the NSW Waratahs.

The Force juggernaut powered into fourth position overall and leapfrogged the Waratahs into second in the Australian conference thanks largely to a try-scoring hat-trick to Wallabies winger Nick Cummins in Saturday night’s 28-16 win in Perth.

The Brumbies consolidated first place in the Australian conference with an equally impressive 23-20 derby win over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane – but it’s the Force who are commanding new-found respect.

If the star-studded Waratahs, with a near-Test strength outfit, can be considered title contenders, so can the Force on the back of their eye-catching club-record run.

Success over NSW has not only put the squeeze on the fifth-placed Waratahs, but also leaves the Force well placed to climb higher up the ladder on Friday night with victory over the battling Rebels in Melbourne.

“It’s fantastic to win that game and to have won five straight. It’s just reward for a lot of hard work by the players,” Force coach Michael Foley said.
“We were playing a very powerful and talented side who knows how to use the ball well.
“And when you consider that just a few weeks ago they put six tries into us, to go out there and do what our guys did was an immense effort.”

Israel Folau and Waratahs coach Michael Cheika were furious the ARU overruled the NSW club doctor and ordered the Wallabies fullback not to play because of a throat injury.

Cheika said the disruption hurt the Tahs, but nevertheless praised the Force for their spirit after the home team also lost fullback Jayden Hayward before kickoff and had to rush in Dane Haylett-Petty for a start after playing 60 minutes of club rugby earlier in the day.

“Full credit to them, I take nothing away from them,” said Cheika, who also insisted it wasn’t panic stations at the Waratahs despite two defeats from their past three starts.
“There’s a long way to go. We’re not only halfway through yet.”

The Brumbies’ important away win leaves the 2013 Super runners-up well placed atop the Australian conference before their mid-season bye.

Second overall, the Brumbies after three points ahead of the Force, five in front of the Waratahs and nine clear of the Reds.

The Rebels, 10 points adrift of the Force, are next to no chance of making the finals after falling 22-16 to the reigning champion Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

The Chiefs’ hard-earned win left the titleholders five points clear atop the New Zealand conference, and third overall behind the Sharks and Brumbies.

The Sharks are nine points clear of the Bulls in the South African conference after scoring a 25-12 win over the Lions in Johannesburg.

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Super expectations rise for in-form Force

Jim Morton, AAP  April 6, 2014

Hodgo post match Reds win

Super Rugby’s feel-good story of 2014, the Western Force, have shown they’re the real deal – now they can prove they’re genuine title contenders.

Their dramatic 32-29 comeback win over Queensland has pitched the Force into fifth place overall and set up a mouth-watering Saturday night home clash with NSW.

After four seasons in the bottom four, and having won four four games in 2013, the No.4 is finally a celebrated one for the Perth surprise-packets.

Their fourth straight victory is their best winning streak in a nine-year history.

A fifth – combined with a desperate Reds’ win over the second-placed Brumbies in another huge derby clash – would put the Force on top of the vastly-improved Australian conference almost halfway through one of the tightest competitions seen.

Force mentor Michael Foley rates the Waratahs up with the Sharks as the favourites for the title but his new side will take on his old with renewed confidence at nib Stadium.

They were thumped 43-21 by NSW in round one and are determined to give a far better account of themselves at home.

“We weren’t happy with the way we played them in the first game so we need to come out strong,” said skipper Matt Hodgson, who refused to consider finals.

Hodgson, a leading light with back-row partner Ben McCalman, put their success down to a family-like bond.

“We have a belief in the group now that we can win those close ones,” he said.

“There’s no one player that’s standing out. It’s all 15 on the field.

“We don’t see ourselves as a team, more like a family, and we’re doing it for each other.”

Despite the three-tries-to-two upset of the Reds, sealed with a solo try by Kiwi-born fullback Jayden Hayward after 16 phases, Foley saw plenty of room for improvement.

“We’re thrilled to get the result but I don’t think we played our best footy and we will have to step up to beat the Waratahs,” he said.

NSW, set to have Israel Folau back from injury, fly back from Cape Town as just the second team this season to win across the Indian Ocean this year after grinding out a 22-11 win over the Stormers.

“The Force are on fire. It’s going to be tough to try and halt that,” NSW coach Michael Cheika admitted.

The result leaves just three points separating the Brumbies (21), Waratahs (20) and Force (18).

It’s the first time three Australian sides have sat in the top five since the end of the 2002 season.

The Sharks (23) remain on top of the overall standings after their bye, six points clear of the next best South African side, while the Chiefs (20) extended their lead in the Kiwi conference.

The two-time defending champions stormed back from 34-10 down to draw 43-43 with the Cheetahs – their second amazing comeback draw in South Africa in a week.

The Crusaders gave their campaign some life with a rare 28-9 away win over the Lions in Johannesburg.

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Matt Hodgson says winning becomes a Force of habit after record fourth straight victory

www.news.com.au APRIL 06, 2014

CAPTAIN Matt Hodgson says the “belief” to close out big games has finally been harnessed by his Force team, whose hot-streak could see the Perth men seize the lead of the Australian conference this week.
The Force claimed a franchise-record fourth straight win on Saturday night in Brisbane, coming from behind to beat the Reds with a try to fullback Jayden Hayward in the 79th minute.
It took the WA side into the top six and if the Force beat the visiting Waratahs at home on Saturday night, and the Reds beat the Brumbies, last year’s wooden spooners in the Aussie conference could jump to the top.
Just three points separates the Brumbies (21), Waratahs (20) and Force (18) in the competition’s top six.

The significant element of the Force’s win over the Reds was claiming the points in the tight stages after years of being the heartbreak kids, where numerous leads were squandered and tight losses suffered.
In the first season under Michael Foley last year, the Force led at half-time in nine matches but only won three, and recorded six defeats by less than seven points.

But after years of being cursed by them, the rugby Gods now even seem content to smile on the Force, as seen by Quade Cooper missing a post-siren drop goal to snatch a draw on Saturday.
“We have a belief in the group now that we can win those close ones,” Hodgson said.
“In previous years we would have gone into our shells at the end but this group knows its not over until it’s over.
The way we finished against the Chiefs and the Highlanders, we now know how to finish those games.
“There’s no one player that’s standing out. It’s all 15 on the field.
“We don’t see ourselves as a team, more like a family, and we’re doing it for each other.”
One player may not be standing out but there’s an argument two are: the brilliant back row duo Ben McCalman and Hodgson.  Helping the Force dominate breakdown proceedings, Alby Mathewson is controlling traffic at halfback and getting far more out of the Force back line and the talents of Kyle Godwin, Nick Cummins and Hayward.

The Waratahs have proved a bogey side for the Force in recent times, having lose heavily in round one in Sydney and in Perth last year as well.
Though they’ve toppled sides like the Chiefs and the Crusaders, Foley said the Force have yet to put together an A-plus performance against his old side.

“We have not played our best against them,” Foley said.
“We haven’t measured ourselves against them with a good performance yet.”
Foley kept a lid on the hype after the Reds’ win, saying while pleased to get the victory his side hadn’t played well and they’d need to improve to beat the Waratahs.
The Brumbies and Sharks both rumbled the Waratahs physically to beat them this season, and though NSW turned in a far more robust effort to beat the Stormers in Cape Town at the weekend, Foley believes his team can follow the muscular game plan needed to beat the Tahs.
“I believe we do have the physicality to match them,” Foley said.
“We have to if we want a result there.”

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Rugby Wallaby watch: we take a look at a few of the players in line for a Wallabies recall

DOMINIC BURKE FOX SPORTS MARCH 28, 2014

THE rugby season is rocketing along and before you know it the Wallabies’ first Test of the year will be upon us.

Ewen McKenzie’s men face an intriguing three-match battle against France, who finished third in the Six Nations and knocked over last year’s Wallabies’ conquerors England.

The Wallabies ended 2013 on a high with four-straight wins to finish their Spring Tour, and they’ll be looking to bring that momentum into this year.

While the key players from that tour will no doubt play a big role against France, a host of big names were unavailable for action due to injury or form.

With the help of Fox Sports Stats we take a look at the comeback kings looking to force their way back into the Wallabies set-up, and how they have started their 2014 seasons.

Kurtley Beale

Waratahs star Beale looks a certainty for a Wallabies recall, the only question is: where?

Beale has played all 39 of his Tests at fullback or flyhalf (or off the bench) but has been in superb form at inside-centre since returning to NSW.

He is the joint leader in the competition – alongside Quade Cooper – for try assists (5), while he leads the Tahs for linebreak assists (4), and is second for linebreaks (4), and ball carries (34).

Is it enough to earn a shot at the Wallabies’ No.12 jersey in the first Test against France?

Jesse Mogg

Israel Folau has a mortgage on the fullback jersey for the Wallabies, but who is second in line?

Brumbies Mogg star has been in blistering form since his opening-round shocker against the Reds, scoring four tries in his opening five games.

Mogg, who made his Test debut against the British and Irish Lions before his 2013 campaign was cut short by a shoulder injury, leads the Brumbies for tackle busts (15), linebreaks (5), and run metres (374m).

He is also ninth overall in Super Rugby for kick metres (1319), with Reds halfback Will Genia (1481) and Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley (1440) the only Aussies with a bigger boot this season.

Scott Higginbotham

The Rebels skipper hasn’t worn Wallaby gold since 2012, with a shoulder injury ruining his hopes of tackling the British and Irish Lions and then sidelining him for the remainder of last year.

Higginbotham has wasted little time in reminding us of his worth this season. He is the Rebels’ leading try-scorer this season with two, and has now scored eight five-pointers in 18 games for the club.

The big No.8 has made the second most ball carries (31) for Melbourne, the equal most linebreaks (3) and is equal third for tackle busts (8).

He is averaging more carries (7.8) and run metres (45m) this season than last (6.9 runs for 41m) and has been the Rebels’ go-to man at lineout time with a team high 13 wins.

Headshoot Wallabies 2014

Matt Hodgson

He is the wrong side of 30 and played the last of his six Tests three seasons ago, but the veteran Force skipper is playing at a standard that deserves to be recognised.

The no-nonsense flanker has started the season in typically hard-working fashion to be the leading Australian tackler in Super Rugby (88) and third overall.

He has also proved a threat with ball in hand, crossing the stripe three times to be the Force’s leading try-scorer.

With David Pocock out for the year and Liam Gill recently sidelined, Hodgson looms as a handy back-up option for first-choice No.7 Michael Hooper.

Matt Hodgson (C) has led a resurgent Western Force superbly.

Wycliff Palu

The veteran No.8 started every Test against the Lions last year but missed the rest of the Wallabies’ 2013 campaign after undergoing knee surgery.

He hasn’t missed a beat since returning for duty with the Waratahs, for whom he has been one of the leading lights in a power-packed start to 2014.

He ranks second for the Tahs in offloads (10), and ball carries (34), third for tackles made (29), and seventh for run metres (176m).

If he stays injury free, and the Tahs coaching staff are doing their best to ‘manage’ him, Palu is surely a certainty for a Wallabies recall to earn his 50th Test cap.

Lachie Turner

The former Waratahs flyer has looked a new man since heading north to Queensland, putting two injury-plagued seasons quickly behind him with a hot start for the Reds.

He scored a try in each of his first two games for his new club, and has made the second most linebreaks (three), and third most tackle busts (7) and run metres (178m) for the Reds so far this season.

If he continues this strong form it might be enough to convince his former coach at the Tahs, Wallabies boss Ewen McKenzie, to add to his 15 Test caps.

Fellow Queensland flyer Rod Davies has also impressed, leading the Reds in linebreaks (four) as well as being second for run metres (187m) and crossing for one try.

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Rugby team of the week

Toby Sinclair  FOX SPORTS MARCH 25, 2014

Matt Hodgson tackle during Chiefs

THE Chiefs’ and Sharks’ unbeaten starts to the season were brought to an end on a big weekend of Super Rugby.

Western Force stunned the Chiefs in Perth with a dominant defensive display while the Bulls got one back on the Sharks with a tough win in Pretoria.

Elsewhere the Brumbies continued their charge, the Waratahs bounced back, the Lions roared home against the Reds, the Highlanders held off the Hurricanes and the Blues turned it on against the Cheetahs.

1. Loosehead Prop — Ben Franks (Hurricanes) makes the team of the week for the third time this season with another busy display. Franks did a mountain of work in the Hurricanes’ loss to the Highlanders, scoring a try, making 1 linebreak, 13 runs (44m), 2 tackle busts and 12 tackles.

2. Hooker — Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs) put in a solid performance in a losing side, making 8 runs (44m), 3 tackles and forced 2 penalties at the breakdown in the cheetahs loss to the Blues.

3. Tighthead Prop — Ben Alexander (Brumbies) put in his best performance for the season on the weekend against the Stormers, making 8 runs (27m), 1 offload and 8 tackles.

4. Second Row — Scott Fardy (Brumbies) has continued his strong form from 2013 and led the Brumbies’ defensive effort against the Stormers. Fardy made 5 runs (32m), 3 lineout wins, 1 pilfer, 1 forced penalty and 15 tackles.

5. Second Row — James Broadhurst (Hurricanes) made the most runs of any player this round with his 15 (77m) against the Highlanders. Broadhurst also made 3 tackle busts, 1 offload, 2 lineout wins and 9 tackles.

6. Blindside — Jacques du Plessis (Bulls) was back to his abrasive best in the Bulls’ win over competition front-runners the Sharks. Du Plessis scored a try, made 1 linebreak, 6 runs (51m), 2 tackle busts, 1 pilfer and 12 tackles.

7. Openside — Matt Hodgson (Force) continues his renaissance and led his team superbly against the Chiefs. Hodgson scored his first career double (the only two tries of the game), made 1 linebreak, 9 runs (34m), 1 offload, 2 tackle busts, 2 pilfers and a match-high 18 tackles. Sam Chrisite (Highlanders) also deserves a mention for his 26 tackles against the Hurricanes.

8. No. 8 — Duane Vermeulen (Stormers) was a standout in a losing team, scoring his first Super Rugby try since 2010. Vermeulen made 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 10 runs (90m), 1 offload, 5 tackle busts, 2 lineout wins and 15 tackles against the Brumbies. Scott Higginbotham (Rebels) also eserves a mention for his try-scoring performance against the Waratahs.

9. Halfback — Tj Perenara (Hurricanes) gets the nod for the halfback spot, with his 2 try assists, 1 linebreak assist, 7 runs (35m), 2 tackle busts, 3 offloads and 5 tackles against the Highlanders.

10. Flyhalf — Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) again wears the No. 10 jersey in the team of the week and beats Quade Cooper (Reds) and the Bulls Jacques-Louis Potgeiter. Barrett scored a double for the second consecutive week, 26 points, made 1 linebreak, 11 runs (132m), 6 tackle busts and 2 tackles.

11. Left Winger — Robbie Coleman (Brumbies) is doing his best to cement a wing spot in Henry Speight’s absence and has now scored four tries in his four matches this season. Coleman scored his first Super Rugby double, made 9 runs (45m), 1 offload, 1 tackle busts and 8 tackles against the Stormers.

12. Inside centre — Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) put in a man-of-the-match performance in the Waratahs’ win over the Rebels at Allianz Stadium. Beale had a hand in three of the Tahs’ four tries, made 2 linebreaks, 1 linebreak assist, 9 runs (82m), 2 offloads, 3 tackle busts and 6 tackles.

13. Outside Centre — Conrad Smith (Hurricanes) was the pick of the outside centres this week, making 1 linebreak, 11 runs (80m), 2 tackle busts and 7 tackles against the Highlanders.

14. Right winger — Courtnall Skosan (Lioms) has now scored in back-to-back weeks and was the leading tackler for the Lions in their controversial win over the Reds. Skosan made 2 linebreaks, 5 runs (51m), 2 offloads, 5 tackle busts and a team-high 13 tackles.

15. Fullback — Israel Folau (Waratahs) continues his try-scoring blitz grabbing another double in the Waratahs’ win over the Rebels. Folau has already notched up eight tries in four games this season (the same amount he scored in all of last season) and on the weekend made 12 runs (133m), 6 offloads, and 5 tackle busts.

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Super Rugby team of the week Round 6

 wwos.ninemsn.com.au

1.  Loosehead prop

Should Pek Cowan be a Wallaby again this year? He’s the form loosehead right now.

Pek

 

5.  Lock

The crowd at NIB Stadium was insanely loud this weekend, which is why Sam Wykes looks like he doesn’t know what he just agreed to.

2503_wykes_a

7.  Openside flanker

Matt Hodgson made more turnovers than a CWA committee at an apple festival. Yes, that pun is laboured, but no-one laboured harder than Hodgson against the Chiefs. And yes, that pun is also laboured.

2503_hodgson_a

13.  Outside-centre

Menacing, terrifying, monstrous. These are all words I only use to describe Junior Rasolea because I am currently on the other side of the continent from him. If he was in Perth and I was in Adelaide, I would be referring to him as charming. That’s how scary he is right now.

Junior ras

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Captain courageous inspires Force

25 MAR 2014  www.sbs.com.au

Hodgo 2nd try celebration against chiefs

When Western Force players a dose of inspiration during a game, they just take a quick look at skipper Matt Hodgson.

Hodgson has been at the club since their inception, meaning he has experienced plenty of lows over the past eight years.

He was there when the Firepower collapse cost players six-figure sums.

He experienced the 2008 player revolt against then-coach John Mitchell and the subsequent departure of a host of stars.

And then there’s been the woeful on-field fortunes – eight straight years without a finals berth.

But 2014 is shaping as a turning point for the Perth-based franchise, with a three-game winning streak lifting the Force to within two points of third spot.

Hodgson, in his second season as captain, has played a key role in the Force’s resurgence this season.

His two tries were vital in the 18-15 win over the Chiefs, but it’s his bone-crunching work at the breakdown that lifts his teammates the most.

Hodgson is often bashed and bruised after games, and it’s not uncommon for him to have blood oozing out from various places during post-match interviews.

Coach Michael Foley has only been at franchise for 19 months, but it didn’t take him long to figure out just how important Hodgson was to the set-up.

“He means everything to the side,” Foley said.

“He’s been here from day one and he’s had to go through difficult times, but he just keeps standing up. He perseveres.

“If you think about what he’s stood for in the nine-year history of the club, and you see some of the things happening on the field, he’s a shining example.

“He’s probably the main reason why some of that stuff happens.”

The Force will use this week’s bye to freshen up their battered bodies.

Last week’s gutsy win over the Chiefs came at a major cost, with lock Hugh McMeniman set to miss at least a month of rugby after breaking his collarbone.

But scrumhalf Alby Mathewson will be free to help the side chase a franchise-record fourth straight win next week against the Queensland Reds after escaping with a one-week ban for trampling an opponent.

In-form No.8 Ben McCalman will also front up against the Reds after serving his ban for a dangerous tackle.

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Hodgson makes case for hanging on to the old and bold

Wayne Smith THE AUSTRALIAN MARCH 24, 2014

Force Captain Matt Hodgson vs Chiefs

IT is one of the defining features of Australian rugby, the willingness to give brilliant young players a go at Test level, but Western Force coach Michael Foley believes Matt Hodgson is making the case for hanging on to the old and bold.

Hodgson’s two tries in the Force’s historic 18-15 victory over the defending Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs, in Perth on Saturday night served to highlight yet again how valuable a player he is.

At present, it is the Force alone benefiting from his presence but Foley sees no reason why the Wallabies should not also profit – especially in light of the fact that Reds fetcher Liam Gill has now joined David Pocock on the season’s casualty list.

The seriousness of Gill’s hamstring injury will not be determined until he has scans on his return from South Africa but if a Test side was being announced today, Hodgson and Waratahs openside flanker Michael Hooper surely would be the two sevens named in the squad.

Hodgson was 29 when he played the most recent of his six Tests but Foley is adamant his age should not come into the selection equation this season. “We do historically have an issue of moving on older players when they still have a lot left in them,” said Foley. “Hodgo is a case in point. It was his experience that made possible his second try and that’s not something to be dismissed lightly.”

Hodgson, now 32, shrugged off the possibility of a recall to the Wallabies ranks for the June Tests against France, insisting he was looking no further than rising to the challenge of leading the dramatically resurgent Force.

Not only did he score both tries against the Chiefs but he also made an astonishing 20 tackles, six more than his customary contribution and double the tackle count of any other player in the match. “I’m pretty happy with 20 but it’s more the fact I’m not missing many that pleases me most,” Hodgson said.

The Chiefs’ coaching brains trust of Dave Rennie and former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith is arguably as good as any coaching team on the planet, but Foley stole a march on them on Saturday night, anticipating the Waikato side would attempt to play a high-risk, high-return game but squeezing the life out of the Chiefs by giving them virtually no unstructured ball to attack from.

The Force has a timely bye in which to come down from its high and regroup ahead of its eagerly awaited clash with arch-rivals Queensland at Suncorp Stadium, but the week’s break might not be enough for either Hugh McMeniman or Alby Mathewson.

The Wallabies lock played on for 10 minutes after damaging his shoulder at the 30-minute mark but did not return at the start of the second half. Foley fears he might be facing an extended period on the sidelines. The injury is to the same shoulder that caused him to miss a large chunk of last season.

Halfback Mathewson, meanwhile, is facing possible suspension after the citing commissioner decided his stamping on Chiefs flanker Sam Cane reached the threshold of a red card offence.

However, No 8 Ben McCalman should make his return from suspension against the Reds.

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Giant-killing Force staying grounded

16:52 Sun Mar 23 2014  AAP

Captain Matt Hodgson scoring his second try vs Chiefs

Western Force coach Michael Foley insists it’s too early to think about finals action just yet despite his team’s stirring 18-15 Super Rugby triumph over the defending champion Chiefs in Perth on Saturday night.
Consecutive wins over the Rebels, Highlanders and Chiefs have lifted the Force to within two points of third spot ahead of their bye week.

The Chiefs – winners of the past two Super titles – simply had no answers to the Force’s steely defence, with the New Zealand outfit held tryless in Australia for the first time since 2001.

But the Force’s latest win could come at a major cost, with halfback Alby Mathewson cited for trampling and forwards Hugh McMeniman (shoulder) and Kieran Longbottom (head) left nursing injuries.

McMeniman has a history of shoulder issues and the Force have their fingers crossed his latest injury isn’t serious.

Longbottom was taken to hospital after copping a knee to the head while making a try-saving tackle.

Both players will be monitored ahead of the Force’s clash with the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on April 5.

Mathewson is facing suspension after he was charged with stamping on Chiefs flanker Sam Cane in the early minutes of the game.

The Force have the chance to win a franchise-record four consecutive games when they take on the Reds in a fortnight.

And although confidence is sky high amongst the player group, Foley said it was still too early in the season to think about a finals berth.

“If you bottle some of the great stuff out of the last three weeks, I think we can go on to have a good season,” Foley said.

“But we haven’t had a good season yet. We’ve only had three wins.

“Last year we won four games and drew one, so we haven’t even achieved that yet.

“The performances are well in excess of what we saw last year, but there’s a lot of work to do.

“I think if you do enough things right, eventually you’ll get there (finals).”

Force skipper Matt Hodgson was left bloody and bruised after the win over the Chiefs.

But he said every bit of pain was worth it after his two tries set up one of the Force’s greatest wins.

“I think I’m up there with the leading try scorers this year, for a total of three metres for each try,” Hodgson joked of his three tries.

“But I don’t play to score tries. I play for the wins.”

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Tuesday Top 5

HUGH CAVILL MARCH 17, 2014 Green & Gold Rugby

Hodgo with fans on 100th

Western dominance

The Western Force lack a lot of things, but ticker certainly isn’t one of them. Their performance on Saturday was nothing short of inspirational, beating the Highlanders in Dunedin despite playing the last seven minutes with only 13 players.

Ben McCalman is the form Australian player at the moment, which makes it all the more disappointing that he is facing suspension.  Matt Hodgson isn’t far behind – the man is a machine.  Throw Angus Cottrell in (a Wallaby bolter if he keeps his form up) and you have arguably the best backrow in Australia.  When the other 12 players get their act together they are a very dangerous team.

I don’t think this will spark a finals push for the Force, but it will certainly bring a smile to the face of their beleaguered supporters and bring in the possibility of a top ten finish.  Hopefully they can draw a good crowd to their game this week against the Chiefs.  If they can knock them off then I will start believing.

One funny moment from the game came when Aaron Smith drove over the line, though it was uncertain if he got the ball to ground for the try.  Instead of wasting time with the TMO, referee Glen Jackson simply walked over to Smith and asked ‘did you get it?’.  Smith, to his credit, shook his head and said ‘no’, so Jackson blew a five metre scrum and the game went on. Commendable honesty from Smith, and good refereeing from Jackson.  Should be more of it.

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Confident Force ready for Chiefs battle

By Justin Chadwick, AAP March 16, 2014

after try celebration vs Rebels 100

It’s still early days, but this Super Rugby season is shaping as a special year for the Western Force.

The Force secured consecutive bonus point victories for the first time in their history on Saturday night when they held on for a 31-29 triumph over the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The Perth-based franchise now have the chance to notch three wins on the trot for the first time since 2007 when they host the all-conquering Chiefs on Saturday night.

The Force were hot favourites to claim the wooden spoon after opening their season with lacklustre losses to the Waratahs and Brumbies.

But impressive wins over the Rebels and Highlanders have lifted them into equal sixth spot on the table.

Star forward Ben McCalman faces a nervous wait after he was cited for his spear tackle on Highlanders prop Kane Hames.

But other than that it’s good news for the Force, who are brimming with confidence after scoring eight tries in the past two weeks.

Halves pairing Sias Ebersohn and Alby Mathewson are combining brilliantly, while Force back-rowers McCalman and Matt Hodgson have been supreme at the breakdown this season.

The Force have finished 13th, 14th, 12th and 13th in the past four years, and have never won more than seven games in a season.

But finally there is light at the end of the tunnel, with the hard work under coach Michael Foley starting to pay dividends.

“These guys have worked very hard for the past 16 months, and I think there’s a little bit of validation there,” Foley said.

“The guys who have been at the club for a long time haven’t had the good fortune of getting back-to-back bonus point wins before.

“It gives them a lot of belief. It doesn’t mean we’ll always get it right. But it does prove that all the hard work and the effort they put in for each other is worthwhile.”

They say the harder you work, the luckier you get.

That was definitely the case on Saturday night, with the Force holding on for a two-point win after Highlanders flyhalf Hayden Parker missed his conversion on the full-time siren.

The Force fought tooth and nail to after being reduced to 13 men for the final eight minutes, and they deserved victory after producing yet another impressive attacking display.

Foley praised his team’s fighting spirit, and urged them to put in another big effort on Saturday night against the Chiefs, who have won the past two Super titles.

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Force guts out an impressive win over Highlands

By Lynn McConnell  http://www.sportal.com.au/  15/03/2014

Group shot over highlanders

Sheer guts from the Force, who played the last 10 minutes of the game with 13 men, overcame a naïve Highlanders team who wasted too much time to capitalise and went down 29-31.

The Highlanders did score late on through replacement first five-eighths Hayden Parker but he was forced wide which made his conversion attempt harder, and he was unable to land it to achieve the draw.

But it was a game effort from the Force who had to go back three years to the last time they had won consecutive games.

Replacement loose forward Adam Coleman was sin-binned and then skipper No.8 Ben McCalman, who had been a key contributor, was also sin-binned for a tip tackle.

From the five-metre scrum the Highlanders muffed their chance to score immediately and that ate up time as the Force cleared downfield. Again the Highlanders came back but they were unable to ground the ball in a maul over the line, and more time was wasted.

A five-metre scrum was forced, and collapsed by the Force, but finally the chance came and Parker crossed wide out.

However, the game had been lost earlier by the Highlanders whose mistakes had been punished by the Force in emphatic fashion.

Looking to replicate their electric start from their last outing against the Rebels, the Force showed good patience from the outset and they crossed for the opening try from a rolling maul which saw hooker Nathan Charles touch down.

The Highlanders made an initial response with two penalty goals to first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga but no sooner was there a restart after his second than the Force kicked the ball dead.

From the resulting scrum halfback Alby Mathewson was ruled off-side and Sopoaga promptly goaled from 50m to claim the lead in the 18th minute.

Ebersohn compensated for the error by picking off an attempted long pass by home hooker Liam Coltman to race in from 40m out to add the conversion to lead 14-9.
Working their way back into the Force 22m area, the Highlanders produced a set piece play from a scrum with No.8 Nasi Manu feeding to halfback Aaron Smith standing off. Smith fired a kick through for second five-eighths Shaun Treeby to win the ball for the try.

However, just on half-time, some hard yards were gained by wing Luke Morahan who took play to within 10m of the Highlanders’ line and from the ruck No.8 Ben McCalman shook off a tackle attempt to go in under the posts.

Ebersohn’s conversion gave the Force a 21-16 lead at half-time. He added a penalty goal to start the second half and as desperation grew for the Highlanders they were forced into error.

In the 55th minute, the Highlanders looked to run the ball through midfield, but a pass from Treeby to centre Malakai Fekitoa saw the catcher receive the ball and defender Nick Cummings at the same instant. The ball dropped free and in covering Sopoaga had his kick charged by centre Junior Rasolea and he held the ball to outpace the defence on his run to score in the corner.

The Highlanders response was immediate and they had reward for keeping ball in hand after strong runs by prop Kane Hames, Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa, who featured twice, the second time to score.

Scorers:

Highlanders 29
Tries: Treeby, Fekitoa, Parker
Con: Sopoaga
Pen: Sopoaga 4

Force 31
Tries: Charles, Ebersohn, McCalman, Rasolea
Con: Ebersohn 4
Pen: Ebersohn

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Matt Hodgson, Pat McCabe & Chris Feauai-Sautia make our round four Super Rugby team of the week

Toby Sinclair FOX SPORTS March 11, 2014

THE Super Rugby season continues apace with another big weekend of action that saw the Sharks jump back to the top of the table.

Three Australian sides had wins, with the Brumbies downing the Hurricanes, the Reds outlasting the Cheetahs and the Force thumping the Rebels.

So who were the standout players over the weekend?

We have crunched the numbers from the round’s six fixtures to come up with the best-performing players (statistically speaking) in each position.

See who made our stats-based Team of the Week, and then vote for the player of the round in our poll below. (We have chosen a five-player shortlist).

1. Loosehead Prop — Ben Franks (Hurricanes) was good in a beaten side and makes the team for the second consecutive week. Franks made the most tackles by any prop in the round with 13.

2. Hooker — Stephen Moore (Brumbies) just pips his opposite Dan Coles from the Hurricanes. Moore was everywhere for the Brumbies leading the team for runs (14 for 44m), making 2 offloads as well as 10 tackles.

3. Tighthead Prop — Frans Malherbe (Stormers) was strong defensively for the Stormers, making 10 tackles as well chipping in with a forced penalty.

4. Second Row — Flip van der Merwe (Bulls): was the pick of the locks, doing plenty of work in the Bulls win over the Blues making 1 linebreak assist, 7 runs (28m) as well as 1 tackle bust, and 14 tackles.

5. Second Row — Jeremy Thrush (Hurricanes) was another strong contributor for the Hurricanes in their loss against the Brumbies making 4 runs and 15 tackles

6. Blindside — Schalk Burger (Stormers) despite wearing the no. 7 jersey for the Stormers, Burger gets the Blindside flanker jersey for the team of the week. Burger was back to his abrasive best for the Stormers making 11 runs (50m), 1 linebreak assist, 1 tackle bust and 18 tackles against the Crusaders.

Matt Hodgson try vs Rebels in 100th Cap

7. Openside — Matt Hodgson (Force): had a blinder his 100th match for the Force and pips Marcel Coetzee (Sharks) for the open-side jersey. Hodgson led the Force by example scoring a try and making a round-high 23 tackles.

8. No. 8 — After narrowly missing out last week Ben McCalman (Force) gets the nod after another enormous game for the Force. McCalman has been the Force’s best player this season and made a round-high 16 runs (72m), 2 offloads, 3 tackle busts and 12 tackles.

9. Halfback — Faf de Klerk (Lions) edges out Alby Mathewson with another strong showing for the Lions. De Klerk scored his first Super Rugby try, made 2 linebreaks, 6 runs (59m), 1 offload, 6 tackle busts and 8 tackles against the Bulls.

10. Fly-half — Jacques-Louise Potgeiter (Bulls) put in another match-winning performance for the Bulls grabbing a try and scoring 20 points or more for the second consecutive week. Potgieter also made 1 linebreak, 6 tackle busts and 6 tackles and looks to be filling the void left by Morne Steyn.

11. Left Winger — Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks) makes the team of the week for the first time this season. Mvovo set up one try and made 3 linebreaks, 7 runs (83m), and 5 tackle busts against the Lions.

12. Inside centre — Pat McCabe (Brumbies) bounced back from a neck injury to play one of his best games in a Brumbies jersey. McCabe sliced through the Hurricanes defence, making 3 linebreaks, 12 runs (134m), 2 offloads, 6 tackle busts and 6 tackles.

13. Outside Centre — Chris Feauai-Sautia (Reds) scored two tries on the weekend but could have nearly been three, with an early effort awarded as a penalty try. Feauai-Sautia also made 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 5 runs (40m), 1 offload, 5 tackle busts and 3 tackles.

14. Right winger — Rod Davies (Reds): played his first match for the Reds this season, and showed he has lost none of his pace. Davies scored a try, made 3 linebreaks, 10 runs (118m), 1 offload and 4 tackle busts against the Cheetahs.

15. Fullback — Jesse Mogg (Brumbies): continued his try-scoring form against the Hurricanes, making it three five-pointers in three games for 2014. Mogg also chipped in with 2 linebreaks, 11 runs (95m), 2 offloads, 8 tackle busts, and 3 tackles.

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Hodgson fulfils his vow, repays coach’s faith with interest

WAYNE SMITH THE AUSTRALIAN MARCH 08, 2014

Matt Hodgson runs out for his 100th Super Rugby cap with son Hunter in his arms

Matt Hodgson runs out for his 100th Super Rugby cap with son Hunter in his arms

TOO few promises are kept these days, which is what makes Western Force captain Matt Hodgson exceptional in more ways than one.

It was 2005 and Hodgson’s rugby career, such as it was, was at the make-or-break stage, with the emphasis on break. He had reached that critical juncture where he either kicked on or was kicked out, having just endured three miserable seasons in succession. No sooner had he recovered from an ankle reconstruction than he was undergoing a shoulder reconstruction.

So desperate was he to get back into the game that the moment the surgeon gave him the all-clear, he put his hand up for sevens duty, was sent to Singapore and promptly was taken out – and not to dinner – by a huge Fijian rival. This time it was his knee that needed rebuilding. Even without this litany of woe, Hodgson would have been doing it tough. He was in the Waratahs squad but stuck behind Phil Waugh. On reflection, not a good place to be given that Waugh was the NSW captain and had a history of coming off the field only on those exceedingly rare occasions when he had actually lost a limb.

Worse, there was nowhere else to go. Australia had only three Super Rugby teams at that point and George Smith was filling the No 7 jersey for the Brumbies while up in Queensland David Croft was the Liam Gill of his day – one of the best flankers in the world but still ranked only third in Australia.

But then, a chink of light. Rugby WA had just been given a Super Rugby expansion licence and by happy coincidence Hodgson’s own manager, John Fordham, also happened to manage the newly appointed coach of the Western Force, John Mitchell. Not that this guaranteed any more than a foot in the door and by the time Hodgson actually entered the room, Mitchell had filled every place on his roster, save one. Inevitably, that put him in a position to be rather choosy.

Hodgson gave the interview his best shot, making a very positive impression on Mitchell. Still, the former All Blacks coach had a host of outstanding players all clamouring for that last spot and nothing was settled when he and Hodgson shook hands at the end of it. Mitchell, by this stage, had been interviewing players non-stop for days, building his team from scratch. “You look like you’ve earned a drink,” said Fordham, a convivial fellow wont to say such things, but as the two of them tootled off to the nearby Lord Dudley Hotel, Mitchell’s phone chirped.

It was a text from Hodgson, thanking him for the opportunity to speak with him. But it was the rest of the message that hit home to Mitchell. “If you pick me, I promise you I’ll never let you down,” Hodgson vowed.

In that moment, the Western Force gained its final foundation player, the one who would go on to become the first to play 100 Super Rugby matches for the club, a milestone Hodgson will reach tonight at the Force Field, nib Stadium, against the Melbourne Rebels. Not only has Hodgson been true to his word, he’s been true to it long after Mitchell himself moved on. The Western Force has played only 115 matches in its short history and Hodgson has played 99 of them, a figure that is all the more remarkable considering David Pocock played 69 times for the club, pretty much monopolising the seven jersey whenever he was fit during his seven seasons there.

But Hodgson is an intelligent footballer, as sharp a player as his razor is blunt. It didn’t matter whether Pocock – who since has moved on to the Brumbies – was playing, he would simply make himself so indispensable that a position had to be found for him.

That’s still the way it is. If the seven is taken, he will wear six. Or eight. It doesn’t matter, really, because no one can tell one number from another at the bottom of the ruck and that’s where Hodgson is always to be found.

If Charles Schulz hadn’t introduced Pig Pen into his Peanuts comic strip way back in 1954, you’d swear the character was based on Hodgson. That frantic flapping of hands you see from match officials whenever Hodgson approaches them isn’t the referees waving away the Force captain. It’s them making a hole in his Pig Pen-like personal dust cloud so they can converse with him. But while Hodgson might have questions to ask of referees from time to time, the one he would really like answered is the one he put to Robbie Deans in 2011: Why? Specifically, why would Deans select a World Cup squad with only one specialist seven in it – Pocock?

Hodgson had figured in two Tests that year, on top of the four he had played in the previous year, so he was an established and respected squad member. Yet Deans decided he could take the Wallabies into the World Cup with only one specialist openside flanker.

It wasn’t a case of everyone being wise after the event. The announcement of the World Cup squad was met with widespread bafflement and sure enough, everyone’s worst fears were realised when injury forced Pocock out of the pool match against Ireland. Sean O’Brien had a field day at the breakdown, the Wallabies lost and in the process their World Cup campaign jumped tracks. Where previously they had been gifted an All Blacks-free run to the final, now they had to meet the host nation in the semis. Ugly.

It perhaps would be an exaggeration to suggest that for want of Hodgson, a World Cup finals appearance was lost – but not by much. As it happened, Hodgson was in the crowd that day at Eden Park, having earned a late call-up after Wycliff Palu’s hoped-for quick recovery from injury failed to materialise. But he never played in the tournament and now, with the next World Cup barely a year away, he expects Ewen McKenzie won’t be needing him either.

“When you’ve got sevens like Michael Hooper and Liam Gill, it’s in the best interests of Australian rugby to develop the younger players, not turn to an old bloke like me,” Hodgson says. “Still, if I get the call-up, I’ll be there.”

Realistically, Hodgson knows six caps is all he’s ever going to get. But that’s six more than he ever thought he’d earn. When he made the trip over to Perth in 2005, he was thinking all he wanted was one Super Rugby game for the Force and he could return to Sydney a happy man.

He’s earned considerably more than that. And Sydney is no longer home. Hodgson intends staying in Perth and already is preparing himself for the day when the cheering stops. In a few weeks he will open in West Leederville the first of what he hopes will grow to become a chain of gyms.

Meanwhile, the promise he made to Mitchell has carried through to Richard Graham and on to the current Force coach, Michael Foley.

“I’ll never let you down.”

And he never has.

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Western Force run in four first-half tries to thump Melbourne Rebels 32 – 7 at nib stadium

FOX SPORTS MARCH 08, 2014

Super Rugby Rd 4 - Force v Rebels

Matt Hodgson with son Hunter

THE Melbourne Rebels were brought crashing back to earth in brutal fashion on Saturday night with a shock 32-7 Super Rugby loss to the Western Force in Perth.

The Rebels had been irresistible in last week’s 35-14 demolition of the Cheetahs, while the Force looked set for a long season after being thumped by the Waratahs and Brumbies in their opening two games.

But the Force turned things around in dramatic style, scoring four tries in the opening 27 minutes on the way to the bonus-point victory in front of 9895 fans.

The Rebels were held scoreless until substitute Telusa Veainu scored a belated try after the full-time siren.

The win lifted the Force off the bottom of the table, and snapped their four-game losing streak against the Rebels.

Skipper Matt Hodgson scored a try in his 100th Super Rugby match for the Force, while flanker Angus Cottrell, former Reds winger Luke Morahan and scrumhalf Alby Mathewson also crossed.

The Force led 32-0 at half-time, with scrumhalf Mathewson key to the early onslaught.

The Rebels were beaten in nearly every aspect of the game, with the Force enjoying 75 per cent possession in the opening 30 minutes.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan made a surprising six changes to his starting line-up, and the mass changes backfired badly as the Force took control from the outset.

Mathewson started the riot in the second minute when he sold the dummy to Rebels lock Caderyn Neville before strolling over.

Hodgson’s bravery then set up the second try, with the former Wallaby launching himself at a high ball to open the door for Morahan to cross.

And the inspirational skipper had a try for himself in the 24th minute when he pounced on a lucky bounce.

The four-try bonus point was in the bag by the 27th minute when Rebels flyhalf Angus Roberts dropped a high ball, allowing Cottrell to cross a few phases later.

McGahan had seen enough by that point, dragging prop Max Lahiff and lock Neville from the field in a desperate bid to spark his side.

Flyhalf Bryce Hegarty was also thrown into the fray at half-time and the changes paid dividends as the Rebels stemmed the flow.

However, it was too little, too late as the Force cruised to their first win of the year to celebrate Hodgson’s milestone in grand style.

“It’s a big learning curve for all of us. We’re all responsible for the result,’’ McGahan said.

“I thought the Force were terrific tonight. They really played for each other.

“They brought a real intensity, a real emotional attachment to each other and they deserved the result.’’

Force skipper Hodgson praised the team’s hot start.

“I think that’s the best 30 minutes we’ve played at the club in its entirety. So to come out and play like that … is something I’ll never forget,’’ Hodgson said.

Force coach Michael Foley said the win was good reward for the team’s hard work.

“That’s a nice performance to have early in the season,’’ Foley sad.

“It’s been a long time since there’s been a bonus point here for us.

“I think the way they responded to some of the criticism this week was very good.’’

WESTERN FORCE 32 (Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson, Alby Mathewson, Luke Morahan tries Sias Ebersohn 3 cons 2 pens) bt MELBOURNE REBELS 7 (Telusa Veainu try Bryce Hegarty con) at nib Stadium. Referee: Nick Briant. Crowd: 9,895.

 

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Force skipper Matt Hodgson set to play 100th game

AAP PERTHNOW 04/03/2014

Hodgo hand tunnel vs Brumbies

THERE was a time when Western Force captain Matt Hodgson thought he would never get the chance to play a single game of Super Rugby.

Nine years later, and with 99 Super caps to his name, Hodgson is still thanking his lucky stars as he prepares to become the first player to notch a ton of games for the Force.

Hodgson’s career was at the crossroads during the middle of last decade when he suffered a serious knee injury while playing sevens rugby.

That setback followed on from shoulder and ankle reconstructions.

With his body battered and bruised, a rugby career at the elite level looked beyond Hodgson.

But a dedicated rehab program got Hodgson back on track, before a meeting with inaugural Force coach John Mitchell gave the young flanker his rugby break.

“I had had three reconstructions in three years, and got told I might not play again after a big knee injury in the sevens,’’ Hodgson said.

“I just put my head down and tried to focus on rehab.

“I was lucky enough to catch up with John Mitchell in a one-on-one meeting, and I was lucky enough to fill a roster spot at the Force.

“Moving over here in 2005 I was happy to get one game. Now to reach 100 games is a big achievement for me.’’

Hodgson played in the Force’s first ever game – a 25-10 loss to the Brumbies in 2006 – and he has been a constant in the side ever since.

The Force are yet to make the finals, and a top-six berth looks beyond them this season after opening their campaign with successive losses.

But Hodgson is confident team success isn’t far away, claiming the program coach Michael Foley has set in place will eventually yield results.

“To get the Force to the top of the table is something I want to do,’’ the 32-year-old said.

“We’ve built something special under Foles. We’ve got belief in ourselves. Now it’s just about turning it around.’’

Hodgson is contracted until the end of next season, and the Sydney-born forward hasn’t ruled out playing on after that.

But his immediate focus is on Saturday night’s home clash with the Melbourne Rebels at nib Stadium.

The Rebels opened their season with an impressive 35-14 win over the Cheetahs.

Perth also holds no fears for the Rebels, who have won their past four games against the Force – two of which were in Perth.

“They’re unpredictable,’’ Hodgson said.

“We’re looking for them to come out and play an expansive game.’’

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Tight-knit team the key for Hodgson

By RugbyWA Media Unit     12/13/2014

Matt Hodgson w Ball and Junior R

Western Force captain Matt Hodgson says there is an air of confidence and enthusiasm within the squad with the start to the Super Rugby season just around the corner.

The Force is preparing to play the Pampas XV in their final trial match on Friday, before their Super Rugby season kicks off against the Waratahs on Sunday, 23 February in Sydney.

The Pampas XV are a team boasting some of Argentina’s best domestic players and will compete in the 2014 Pacific Cup against the likes of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

Friday’s match is set to be a tighter affair than last week’s 66-point thrashing of Samoa A in the Force’s first pre-season match.

Hodgson said the team is looking forward to getting another solid 80 minutes under their belt.

“Having been here since 2005 you have seen a lot of stars come over but this is the best feeling we have had amongst the team,” he said.

“The combinations have come together quite quickly and you’ll see again this weekend those combinations come out against the Pampas XV.”

Hodgson said he is looking forward to playing against the little known Argentinian side.

“We don’t know a lot about the Pampas side but we know they’ve got 18 internationals,” he said.

“They are going to be tough, strong around the scrum and set piece, so we are looking forward to that battle.”

Hodgson said having good team chemistry and a tight squad is integral to the Force’s success this season against squads boasting more international experience.

“Our motto is we win together and lose together,” he said.

“One person is not going to win the game, it’s the whole outfit; not just the 22 that gets picked each weak, but the whole squad that turns up from Monday to Friday.”

Hodgson also praised coach Michael Foley, in his second year at the club, for installing confidence in the younger players.

“It’s good to have a coach for a whole preseason and for the 12 weeks, there is that consistency with the main playing squad,” he said.

“We know the style we want to play and we have had a good 12 months under our belt now.”

Hodgson also said the side has taken the momentum from their final win against the Brumbies in the 2013 Super Rugby season and will look to use that moving into the Super Rugby season.

Tickets can be purchased from www.ticketmaster.com.au

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Hodgson to lead the Force against Samoa A

www.rugbyweek.com/news   5th February 2014

Matt_Hodgson50

Western Force head coach Michael Foley has named a 34-man squad to play Samoa A in their first Super Rugby warm up fixture at Lark Hill Sports Complex in Rockingham on Friday.

Matt Hodgson will lead the side that features both of the club’s Wallaby representatives from last year’s Spring Tour in winger Nick Cummins and No.8 Ben McCalman.

The match will provide the Sea of Blue with their first opportunity to see a number of the Western Force’s new recruits in action, including returning local product Zack Holmes, former Brumbies scrumhalf Ian Prior, Wallabies and Australian Sevens flyer Luke Morahan, Cottesloe scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens, former Northland rake Robbie Abel, and the South African trio of outside back Marcel Brache, back-rower Brynard Stander and lock Wilhelm Steenkamp.

Home-grown prop Ollie Hoskins and the former University of Cape Town pairing of Dillyn Leyds and Dylan Sage, all new members of the Force’s Wider Training Squad, have been named, as has the UWA and RugbyWA Academy duo of Richard Hardwick and Corey Thomas.

The match will also signal the return of Nathan Charles and Kyle Godwin, who both missed the end of the 2013 Super Rugby season due to knee and shoulder surgeries respectively.

Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley says the pre-season fixtures continue the team’s climb towards the opening match of the Super Rugby season against the NSW Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday, 23 February.

“This is an important time for the team as we have the opportunity to put four months of training into practice,” he said.

“The squad has worked extremely hard throughout this pre-season training block and there is a determination amongst the group to achieve more this year.

“The playing group, under Matt’s leadership, has placed an emphasis on higher standards in all we do, and we’re looking forward to taking the next step in front of our people in Rockingham on Friday night.”

Western Force

Robbie Abel, Chris Alcock, Phoenix Battye, Marcel Brache, Nathan Charles, Angus Cottrell, Pek Cowan, Nick Cummins, Patrick Dellit, Sias Ebersohn, Tetera Faulkner, Kyle Godwin, Richard Hardwick (RugbyWA Academy), Jayden Hayward, Matt Hodgson (c), Zack Holmes, Ollie Hoskins, Dillyn Leyds, Kieran Longbottom, Ryan Louwrens, Alby Mathewson, Ben McCalman, Luke Morahan, Ian Prior, Junior Rasolea, Dylan Sage, Brynard Stander, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Ed Stubbs, Heath Tessmann, Corey Thomas (RugbyWA Academy), Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Rory Walton, Sam Wykes

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What’s in a name? $50,000

BEN HARVEY The West Australian   January 26, 2014

jersey sales

Western Force is selling naming rights for individual player jumpers for $50,000 after being unable to find a sponsor to replace major supporter Emirates.

Emirates’ decision last year to junk its front-of-jumper sponsorship after a string of unsuccessful seasons left a $1 million-a-year black hole in the Force’s books.

Club chief executive Mark Sinderberry told _WestBusiness _he had to think outside the box because single sponsors were hard to come by.

“We faced an economy which was tightening and there was a lot more uncertainty over the last six months,” he said.

“On top of that, and it was a lesser issue, the Perth Arena was effectively a new product in the market for sporting and entertainment. It made it difficult to find the right partner.

“They are offering a year-round product, with a range of sports and entertainment. What we’re offering is a product which is an involvement with a rugby team which plays in an international competition for the first five months of the year.”

In 2014, sponsors will be able to have their logo on the front of an individual jumper for the entire season for $50,000.

The eight reserves are also up for sale at $25,000 each.

Eight of the starting 15 jumpers have been sold but Mr Sinderberry said the club was not ready to unveil the complete list of which companies had sponsored which positions.

It is likely that the jumpers usually worn by Wallaby winger Nick Cummins and captain Matt Hodgson were hotly contested. But because players sometimes change position, and therefore number, there is no guarantee that a sponsor will be associated with a particular person.

“We have been very conscious to reaffirm ourselves as a proud West Australian club including our recruitment strategy of contracting more outstanding local talent than ever before,” Mr Sinderberry said.

“This initiative gives us the opportunity to promote many WA businesses to a national and international audience.

“We have recently started a new and exciting chapter and the financial support of the local community is critical to the club realising the success that we have set about to achieve.”

The idea for individual sponsorships came after a move last season by Bankwest, which sponsors the back of the jumper, to give its sponsorship space to key bank clients. A similar sponsorship system operates in New Zealand rugby tournaments.

The Force will evaluate the new system over the next year and is still open to naming rights for the team in the future.

Perth-based employment group WorkFocus pounced on the opportunity to secure the high-profile half-back jumper.

WorkFocus chief executive Robert Gordon, a keen rugby fan, said he felt the sponsorship was good value for money given it gave national exposure to his company.

WorkFocus specialises in finding employment for people who are injured, disabled or disadvantaged. The company has 22 offices in WA, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Queensland.

“We went for number nine because it gives the most exposure, in my view,” Mr Gordon said.

“The half-back is always in the frame driving traffic and really setting the scene for what is going to happen in the game.”

Brent Stewart, who is on both the WorkFocus and Western Force boards, floated the idea and Mr Gordon did not hesitate to sign up once he knew he could get either of the jumpers worn by the half-back or hooker.

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Battle of the back row lifts Force

NICK TAYLOR The West Australian   January 25, 2014

vs Tahs

It must be pretty onerous going to work each day knowing you have to challenge the boss for his job.

But that is what faces Western Force flanker Chris Alcock again this season if he wants to play in the prized No.7 jumper.

Pitted against his captain Matt Hodgson, he shares a friendly rivalry that is adding spice and motivation to training.

Alcock started nine games at openside flanker last year while Hodgson started in seven. Alcock came off the bench for his seven other appearances – twice replacing his captain.

Hodgson also started at blindside flanker five times, was on the bench twice and missed two games, one with injury and the other for the birth of his son Hunter.

The battle of the back row does not end there, with Wallabies Ben McCalman and Hugh McMeniman, Angus Cottrell and new South African signing Brynard Stander all in the mix.

“There’s definitely going to be some heated competition with all of us there,” Alcock said.

“In training you always go out and try the best you can, competition is healthy.

“When we train we do everything we have to do, whatever we need to do. You train hard but whatever happens on the field stays on the field and you are good mates off it.”

Alcock had an outstanding 2013 with pace and strength as a ball carrier and toughness at the collision and breakdown. He will be hoping to maintain his 100 per cent Force appearance record, having played in every game last year. Only scrum-half Alby Mathewson matched the feat.

“It is absolutely a target to play in every game again. I want to be out there as much as possible. It’s what I’m here to do,” Alcock said.

Alcock followed Michael Foley across the Nullarbor from the Waratahs last year as the coach’s first signing. He had made 25 appearances for the NSW side.

Although Alcock prefers the No.7 jumper, he is happy to play anywhere across the back row.

“Seven suits me but I’ll play in any of the three positions. It’s all about what works best for the team. What suits the team,” he said.

He said Foley had brought self-belief to the team heading into the new season.

“As a team I believe we have more belief that we can win more games,” he said.

“I’ve worked under Foles for quite a while and belief is something he has always tried to instil especially with the Western Force.

“Last year we had quite a young team, there were new combinations, but as the year progressed people started working better together and we started to get results.

“We can take a lot out of last year, in the way we competed, but we have to close out games.”

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Force finalises 2014 playing roster

By Force Media Unit   1/9/2014

The Western Force has completed its 2014 squad with the signing of Natal Sharks back-rower Brynard Stander for the 2014 and 2015 Super Rugby seasons.

Stander’s recruitment continues the club’s move away from a reliance on Australia’s east coast-based player pool, with the 23-year-old becoming the eighth South African player in the extended squad. He joins fellow senior squad members Wilhelm Steenkamp (Bulls), Chris Heiberg and Marcel Brache (both Western Province), and Wider Training Group members Dillyn Leyds, Dylan Sage and Francois van Wyk (all Western Province) as newcomers to the Force. Flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, formerly of the Cheetahs, returns for his second season with the Western Australian club.

The 2014 Western Force squad will feature a six Perth-produced players – the most the club has ever boasted at any one time. Returning Western Australians Zack Holmes (flyhalf) and Dane Haylett-Petty (outside back) will join incumbents Kieran Longbottom and Kyle Godwin, and rising stars Ryan Louwrens and Luke Burton, who have both been promoted from the RugbyWA Academy, in the 35-man squad. Fellow Perth products Ollie Hoskins and Brad Lacey will also be a part of the extended squad as members of the club’s Wider Training Group.

The 2014 squad features seven Test internationals (Nick Cummins, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Matt Hodgson, Luke Morahan, Pek Cowan and Alby Mathewson) with Cummins, McCalman, McMeniman and Hodgson all re-committing to the club for the 2014 and 2015 seasons last year.

Head Coach Michael Foley says he’s pleased with the intent and commitment of the squad throughout the pre-season.

“We’ve maintained a core group of players from last season and added a number of new members who bring both skill and attitude to the team,” he said.

“This team has continued to work extremely hard throughout the pre-season and there is a genuine hunger and desire to achieve more this season.”

Stander joins the Western Force as an abrasive and physical back-rower, who can play either side of the scrum or at No.8.

He progressed through the Sharks development program, representing the Natal at Under 19 and Under 21 levels, before spending the past two seasons in the coastal province’s Vodacom and Currie Cup squads.

Last year he was crowned Forward of the Year in the Sharks’ Vodacom Cup squad and was a member of the Sharks squad that won the Currie Cup, defeating Western Province, 33-19, in the final.

Stander says he’s excited about pushing for a Super Rugby debut with the Western Force.

“What excites me is being a part of this team that has so much potential,” he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of fire and team spirit from the boys already and I think everyone wants to do their best for their mate alongside them which is so important for being successful.

“I’ve seen in the past how there can be a talented team but if you’re not playing for each other and if players are trying to do their own thing individually then it falls apart. The massive strength here is that the boys are so gelled and wanting to play for each other.”

Stander says he’s enjoying his new surroundings in Western Australia.

“Perth’s a fantastic place – it’s really hot but it’s an outdoors city,” he said.

“Moving here from South Africa was a big decision, particularly moving away from my family, but it’s been such a welcoming atmosphere.

“The culture within the club is great. It’s extremely professional and there’s a high attention to detail and I’m very excited about mixing in with the team this season.”

Foley says Stander will bring additional physicality to the squad in 2014.

“Brynard is a player who rolls his sleeves up on the field and has shown he’s hungry for opportunities” he said. “ He’s strong in contact – both with the ball and in defence.”

Profile
Name: Brynard Stander
Born: 27/04/1990, Durban (South Africa)
Position: Flanker/No.8
Height: 190cm
Weight: 108kg
Super Rugby caps: –
Super Rugby points: –
Super Rugby debut: –
Representative Rugby: 2012-2013 Sharks (Vodacom Cup), 2012 Sharks (Currie Cup), 2011 Sharks Under 21, 2008-2009 Sharks Under 19

2014 WESTERN FORCE – Senior Squad
Robbie ABEL (EPS), Chris ALCOCK, Phoenix BATTYE, Marcel BRACHE, Luke BURTON (EPS), Nathan CHARLES, Adam COLEMAN (EPS), Angus COTTRELL, Pek COWAN, Nick CUMMINS, Patrick DELLIT, Sias EBERSOHN, Tetera FAULKNER, Kyle GODWIN, Dane HAYLETT-PETTY, Jayden HAYWARD, Chris HEIBERG, Matt HODGSON, Zack HOLMES, Kieran LONGBOTTOM, Ryan LOUWRENS (EPS),
Salesi MANU, Alby MATHEWSON, Ben McCALMAN, Hugh McMENIMAN, Luke MORAHAN, Ian PRIOR, Junior RASOLEA, Brynard STANDER, Wilhelm STEENKAMP, Ed STUBBS, Heath TESSMANN, Chris TUATARA-MORRISON, Rory WALTON (EPS), Sam WYKES.

2014 WESTERN FORCE – Wider Training Group
Ollie HOSKINS, Brad LACEY, Dillyn LEYDS, Dylan SAGE, Francois VAN WYK

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Force signals end to successful development block

By RugbyWA Media Unit    9/10/2013

post season training x 6

The Emirates Western Force has completed a seven-week off-season training block that focussed on player development to build on standards set in in 2013 to ensure the squad is prepared for the 2014 pre-season in October.

The training block saw the team focus on three areas of development:

a) Athletic and physical development
b) Educations and career development
c) Local club rugby.

Athletic and physical development

During the seven weeks, players underwent testing and completed tailored programs to ensure they are at a heightened physical condition when entering pre-season next month.

The team had daily weights sessions – and often twice a day – to build on their strength and power adaption and interchanged strong-man sessions with game play to maintain fitness.

Head of Athletic Performance, David Joyce, said the squad worked hard during the development block and will enter the pre-season in better shape than in previous years.

“We utilised this period for the enhancement of athletic robustness and power to assist players in being strong in the contact zone and general play next season,” he said.

“This window in the Super Rugby calendar has never been used for athletic development in the past and we identified this as a critical period for helping to realise development in athletic power and robustness.

“We didn’t want to be playing catch-up through the pre-season; we want our focus to be on enhancing strength and a rugby focus rather than spending time on basic levels of strength.

“We’ve seen improvements across the board in strength, power and flexibility and we’re looking forward to transferring that on the field when pre-season begins next month.”

Education and career development

Off-field, Player Development Manager Ryan Webster has worked with each player to develop a tailored plan that acknowledges their interests and aspirations outside of rugby through university and TAFE courses or work placements.

“We have implemented a world-class program that works hand in hand with RUPA to ensure our players continue to broaden their perspective on life challenges and to develop skills and create opportunities off the rugby field as well as on it,” he said.

“We want to ensure the existence of quality development opportunities and pathways that not only grow the player but the person too.

“Every player has signed off their individual plan that will see them continue, re enrol or begin courses and career pathways that are tailored to what they wish to pursue outside of rugby.”

Local club rugby

Twenty players took the field for their respective club during the 2013 Pindan Premier Grade season, including Patrick Dellit (player) and Heath Tessmann (coach) who were part of the Nedlands premiership winning side.

Each Force player is now in the process of completing their Level 2 Coaching Accreditation with those who were unable to play for their local club during the Pindan Premier Grade season assisting the team in a coaching capacity.

The Emirates Western Force pre-season will begin on Monday, 14 October.

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Force extends record local players in 2014 squad

By RugbyWA Media Unit    8/29/2013

The Emirates Western Force has added a further two Western Australian players to its 2014 squad with the signing of inside back Luke Burton (UWA Rugby Club) and scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens (Cottesloe Rugby Club).

Burton and Louwrens, who join the squad on one-year Extended Playing Squad contracts, extends the already record number of local players in the squad to six, joining Kyle Godwin, Kieran Longbottom, Zack Holmes and Dane Haylett-Petty.

The promotion of the local pair into the senior squad reinforces the club’s focus on providing a pathway for outstanding local talent as well as a move away from a traditional reliance on the east-coast based player pool.

Both Burton and Louwrens have progressed through the ranks of the RugbyWA Academy and will enter the 2014 pre-season having already been regular members of the Force’s extended training squad during the 2013 Super Rugby season.

Emirates Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley says he’s pleased to feature a record number of local players within his squad.

“We are a West Australian team and it’s important we acknowledge quality local talent.” he said.

“Luke and Ryan have earned their opportunity through consistent performances in the local competition and consistent hard work under [RugbyWA Junior Elite Coach] Dwayne Nestor in the Academy.

“They’ve presented as extremely determined, competitive and humble during our ‘1st team’ sessions this season and have earnt respect amongst the team as a result.

“Their promotion, along with Kyle [Godwin], Kieran [Longbottom], Dane [Haylett-Petty] and Zack [Holmes] into the Force squad is a tremendous testament to the work Dwayne Nestor has done with our Academy.

“Luke is a tough and skilful inside back, who performed well for the Australian Under 20’s in France earlier this year and I’m extremely pleased that he turned down offers from other states to stay and play for us.

“Importantly for a ‘9’, Ryan has a very strong pass and is developing good game sense. His contributions during Cottesloe’s grand final run, for Force ‘A’, and during our pre-season trials have all been of a high quality. He is uniquely placed over the next two seasons to benefit from Alby’s [Mathewson] and Ian’s [Prior] experiences at international and Super Rugby levels.”

Perth-born Luke Burton represented Western Australia at Under 15, Under 16 and Schoolboy level before earning selection with the Australia Under 20 squad at this year’s IRB Junior World Championship in France. The 19-year-old played all five matches, crossing for two tries during the side’s seventh-place finish at the tournament.

Burton, a Hale College graduate, says playing for the Emirates Western Force has been his ambition since joining RugbyWA’s Bankwest Academy five years ago.

“I’m really proud to be born and raised in WA and to have the opportunity to play for my state,” he said. “I’m excited about continuing my development on home soil and, as someone who’s aspired to play for the Force, I’m really grateful for the opportunity the club has given me.

“When you’re in the younger ages in the Academy, you always look up to the Force players and want to be there one day which gave me the motivation to work hard and reach my goal.

“Now I’m in the squad, my next goal is to play Super Rugby.

“Joining the Force in the 2013 pre-season in the wider training squad really helped in my Australian Under 20’s preparation and it was an enjoyable and challenging experience.

“I’m looking forward to working with some great players like Kyle Godwin, who I played against at school, and Sias Ebersohn to see how I can develop my game.”

Scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens was born in South Africa and joined the Bankwest Academy on moving to Perth in 2008.

The former Churchlands High School student returned to South Africa in 2009 to finish his schooling where he represented Valke during the prestigious Craven Week schoolboys tournament and the Under 19 Currie Cup.

He re-joined the Bankwest Academy in 2011 before representing Force ‘A’ across 2012 and 2013.

Louwrens, who will start for Cottesloe in their Pindan Premier Grade grand final against Nedlands on Sunday, says he’s looking forward to continuing his development with the Emirates Western Force.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to experience Super Rugby with the Force,” he said.

“It’s been great training with the team this year. They worked hard to build a foundation in 2013 and it’s exciting to be a part of the next step and have the opportunity to learn from the older guys in the squad.”

Profile
Name: Luke Burton
Born: 17/02/1994, Perth
Position: Flyhalf/Inside Centre
Height: 180cm
Weight: 90kg
Super Rugby caps: 0
Super Rugby points: 0
Representative Rugby: 2013 Australian Under 20s, 2010-2011 WA Schoolboys

Name: Ryan Louwrens
Born: 12/03/1991, Johannesburg (South Africa)
Position: Scrumhalf
Height: 179cm
Weight: 93kg
Super Rugby caps: 0
Super Rugby points: 0
Representative Rugby: 2009 Valke (Craven Week & Currie Cup Under 19)

________________________________________________________________________________________

Force builds quality coaching panel for 2014

By RugbyWA Media Unit    8/21/2013

The Emirates Western Force has appointed David Wessels (Senior Assistant Coach) and Kevin Foote (Backs Coach) to a first-class coaching panel for the next two years.

Wessels, a former Defence Consultant to the Force, Stormers and Brumbies, and Foote, a Varsity Cup-winning head coach in South Africa, will assist Head Coach, Michael Foley, in managing the development of the squad for the 2014 and 2015 Super Rugby seasons.

The South African pair was on staff with the Force as Defensive Consultants in 2013, with the former University of Cape Town coaching duo taking up full-time roles with the Western Australian team from next season.

Foley says Foote and Wessels bring with them a wealth of rugby knowledge and experience to assist with the further development of the Emirates Western Force squad.

“We’re focused on developing our players and we’re bringing together coaches that are dedicated to achieving that,” he said.

“Team culture, game style and personal development are areas that all our coaches need to understand and embrace to ensure players expectations of themselves and each other constantly grow.

“Both Kevin and Dave earned respect among the squad as a result of their knowledge of the game and their ability to effectively and energetically communicate their thoughts with all squad members.”

David Wessels, who will oversee the Force’s defence,has previously held the role of Defence Consultant with the Emirates Western Force, Stormers and Brumbies.

His time with the Brumbies in 2012 saw them concede the fewest points in the Australian conference and the second least overall, while the Force’s defence took significant steps forward in 2013, conceding 15 fewer tries than in the previous Super Rugby season.

Wessels held the role of Assistant Coach for Ikeys (University of Cape Town) in South Africa’s Varsity Cup alongside Foote for three seasons, during a time that saw them qualify for the play-offs in 2009, finish runners-up in 2010 before defeating Tuks (University of Pretoria) in the 2011 final.

Wessels says he’s keen to build on what was achieved during the 2013 Super Rugby season.

“It’s exciting to be part of a team on the rise and I’m looking forward to continuing what we started as a coaching group with the Force this season,” he said.

“There were a number of new processes and structures introduced to the team and while they responded very well to these, I’m really looking forward to be able to develop those further this season.

“Foles [Foley] has put a world-class program in place in Perth; there is a strong emphasis on player development and this will hold the club in excellent stead moving forward.”

Kevin Foote, a former Western Province Under 21, Natal Wildebeest (Vodacom Cup) and Springbok Sevens representative, began his coaching career as Assistant Coach at Ikeys in 2009, taking over the role from former Springbok centre Robbie Fleck.

He was promoted to the head coaching role in 2011 and guided Ikeys to their first Varsity Cup title, defeating Tuks 26-16 in the final.

Foote, who coached Emirates Western Force new recruit Marcel Brache in that Varsity Cup-winning side, says he’s excited to continue being a part of the development of the squad.

“We made considerable headway in a number of areas this season and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to be part of developing the team further over the next two years,” Foote said.

“The team formed a solid foundation this year based on setting itself high standards and we now have a strong base from which to build upon.

“Foles [Foley] has been very targeted in his recruitment for this season and the incoming players will add further quality to what is already a very capable playing squad next season.”

The pair will join the team from South Africa ahead of the start of the 2014 pre-season.

Profiles
Name: David Wessels
Role: Senior Assistant Coach
Previous Coaching Roles: 2013 Defence Consultant – Emirates Western Force; 2012 Defence Consultant – Brumbies; 2009-2011 Assistant Coach – University of Cape Town; 2008-2009 Defence Consultant – Stormers.

Name: Kevin Foote
Role: Backs Coach
Previous Coaching Roles: 2013 Defence Consultant – Emirates Western Force; 2011-2013 Head Coach – University of Cape Town (Ikeys); 2008-2010 Assistant Coach – University of Cape Town (Ikeys)

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Godwin sweeps awards at Nathan Sharpe Medal

By RugbyWA Media Unit    7/27/2013

Awards Night

Perth product Kyle Godwin has been recognised for his stellar 2013 Super Rugby season by his teammates, his club and Emirates Western Force members at the club’s Awards Night at Crown Perth tonight, taking home the Nathan Sharpe Medal, Rising Star and Members’ Most Valuable Player.

Captain Matt Hodgson claimed the other gong on offer in being awarded his fourth Force Man Award in his eighth season with the club.

Godwin, who progressed from schoolboys through the RugbyWA development pathway to the Emirates Western Force, has re-signed with the club until 2016.

The Force inside centre polled 209 votes to claim the inaugural Nathan Sharpe Medal as the Emirates Western Force’s player of the year.

The winner is determined by each member of the match day 22 voting for their peers on a 3, 2, 1 voting basis.

The 20-year-old finished 50 votes ahead of runner-up Ben McCalman (159), with Godwin polling in the top five vote recipients in his final six matches of the season before missing the Force’s final round 21-15 win over the Brumbies due to shoulder surgery.

McCalman’s man-of-the-match performance against the Brumbies earned him a season-high 51 votes to finish ahead of scrumhalf Alby Mathewson (154 points), who along with Chris Alcock was the only player to represent the Emirates Western Force in every match this season.

Despite only playing eight of the club’s 16 games this season, Hugh McMeniman’s contribution was conspicuous, polling 141 votes to finish fourth while Heath Tessmann finished fifth with 136 votes from his 13 games after joining the side as injury cover at the beginning of the season.

In his first full season of Super Rugby, Godwin was also recognised as the club’s Rising Star while Gold Member, Ciaran O’Shea, presented Godwin with the Members’ Most Valuable Player.

Hodgson’s Force Man award was recognition as the player who exhibits the club’s ethos and values in every aspect of their performance on the rugby field and in the community.

The 97-cap player assumed the Force captaincy this season and was integral in driving the values and standards that contributed to the strength of character and culture within the playing group.

See the photo gallery from the evening here.

2013 Emirates Western Force Award Winners

Nathan Sharpe Award: Kyle Godwin
Force Man: Matt Hodgson
Rising Star: Kyle Godwin
Members’ MVP: Kyle Godwin

2013 Nathan Sharpe Medal – Top 5
Kyle Godwin – 209 votes
Ben McCalman – 159 votes
Alby Mathewson – 154 votes
Hugh McMeniman – 141 votes
Heath Tessmann – 136 votes

Emirates Western Force Player of the Year – Honour Roll
2013 – Kyle Godwin
2012 – David Pocock
2011 – David Smith
2010 – Matt Hodgson
2009 – Matt Hodgson
2008 – Ryan Cross
2007 – Matt Giteau
2006 – Scott Staniforth

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The Breakdown: Western Force prove they’re Reds’ bogey men

06, 2013 11:48AM

vs Reds x4

It’s official: Western Force are Queensland Reds’ bogey men despite the best efforts of Will Genia and Quade Cooper, Matt Cleary writes in the round 12 edition of The Breakdown.

It’s official: Western Force are Queensland’s bogey men. Despite strong running by Digby Ioane and Chris Feauai-Sautia, rugged work by Liam Gill and Rob Simmons, and thirty minutes of dominance, the Force gutsed it out.
The Force’s backrow were immense, their pressure on Will Genia and Quade Cooper was probably the deciding factor (if a draw can have a deciding factor). Ben McCalman scored a try, Chris Alcock ran hard and Matt Hodgson did many hard things.

Kyle Godwin again showed he’s something of a footballer.
It was all Queensland for the final periods, and a largely dud game became a thriller when the visitors threatened and the locals held firm.

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Rebels, Force granted foreign recruit concession

Rebels, Force granted foreign recruit concession

BRET HARRIS THE AUSTRALIAN JUNE 08, 2013 12:00AM

THE ARU has granted Super Rugby expansion franchises Melbourne Rebels and Western Force a concession to recruit seven foreign players to help them to compete with the traditional powers in NSW, Queensland and the ACT.

The Brumbies, NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds are allowed to recruit two foreign players, one marquee and one developmental.

The Rebels and the Force will be able to recruit a marquee import as well as six foreign development players, who will eventually become eligible to play for the Wallabies.

When the Force entered Super Rugby in 2006 it was not given any recruitment concessions by the ARU, but was granted an extra foreign development player last year.

The Rebels were allowed 10 foreign players when they joined the competition in 2011, but this number was to reduce over a certain period to come into line with the other franchises.

The new recruitment concession is part of ARU chief executive Bill Pulver’s aim to create “unique solutions” for Australia’s five Super Rugby teams.

“This has been done in consultation with all five Super Rugby franchises,” Pulver said.

“It’s an opportunity to provide unique assistance to the Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels.

“There is some inherent advantage enjoyed by NSW, Queensland and to a lesser extent the Brumbies, which are the birthplaces of most of Australia’s rugby talent.

“This is part of our approach to share the talent around the country. I’d love to see our teams come first, second, third, fourth and fifth in the competition.”

Pulver was looking to present a number of other initiatives, including the establishment of a Super Rugby development competition, to the ARU board in August.

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Hodgson most capped Force player

By RugbyWA Media    5/9/2013

Matt Hodgson leading the Western Force

Matt Hodgson leading the Western Force

Matt Hodgson made his Super Rugby debut, starting on the openside flank in the Emirates Western Force’s inaugural match against the Brumbies in 2006.

Fast forward eight seasons and tomorrow night he will take the field for a record 93rd time as the most Super Rugby caps for the Western Australian club.

The milestone sees him surpass rugby stalwart Nathan Sharpe’s previous record of 92 games and after signing with the Western Australian side for a further two years, he is set to become the first player to notch up 100 caps in the ocean blue jersey.

“I’m pretty proud to overtake the man [Sharpe]; he’s got every other record in Australian rugby so to get one up on him is good!” he said.

This season, Hodgson was a standout candidate to captain the side, and was quick to repay the honour by re-signing with the club for a further two seasons.

With the side – guided by Head Coach Michael Foley –relaunching itself in 2013, Hodgson is determined to continue putting back into the club to see it successful.

“My goal is to finish what we’ve started with Foles coming on board,” he said. “We’ve got a three-year plan and I want to be part of that and get the good results and be a stronghold in Australian rugby.

“Being part of so many new players’ first times to play for the Force gives you an added enthusiasm to keep playing and be part of that.

“I really want to play 100 Super Rugby games and knowing that will be at the one club would be a huge honour for me and a great achievement for West Australian rugby.”

Prior to joining the Perth-based province, Hodgson made his mark in the Shute Shield and earned junior representation with the Australian side at the IRB Under 21 World Championships in 2002.

While selection with the Australian Sevens squad followed, he was earned a contract for the Super 14 newcomers, the Emirates Western Force, ahead of the 2006 season.

Since then, ‘Hodgo’ has remained a stalwart of the side, featuring in the Western Australian back row in all but 15 of the club’s 108 Super Rugby matches.

He has been crowned the Emirates Western Force Player of the Year on two occasions (2009 and 2010) and claimed the Force Man Award – recognising the player who best represents the club’s values and ethos both on and off the field – three times (2006, 2007, 2010).

While his performances for his beloved Force have been unwavering, it wasn’t until 2010 – despite inclusion in several Wallaby squad prior – that he made his Test debut for Australia in the 49-3 win over Fiji in Canberra.

Another five international appearances followed, however, it is the Emirates Western Force that has his undivided focus.

While a hamstring injury stalled the start to this year’s Super Rugby season, he has been quick to make up for lost time, featuring in the most runs, most tackles and most pick-and-drives in the competition to date.

Hodgson’s on-field efforts and commitment to the club have not been overlooked by Foley.

“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.”

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Queensland Reds fightback against Western Force ends in Draw

AAP MAY 04, 2013 10:07PM

draw reds vs Force

Quade Cooper missed a 75th-minute sideline conversion as the Western Force held on for a 11-11 Super Rugby draw in Perth.

The Reds appeared headed for their third straight defeat against the Force after slipping to an 11-3 deficit early in the second half.

But a powerful 30 minutes from the Reds catapulted them back into the contest, with a Cooper penalty and a try to substitute Chris Feauai-Sautia locking up the scores at 11-11.

Cooper had the chance to put the Reds ahead with a tough conversion attempt, but the enigmatic Wallaby sprayed his shot to the left.

The Force tried to pinch the game as the clock wound down. But a turnover just 22m out gave the Reds one last chance to win it, with scrumhalf Will Genia launching an audacious run down the touchline before being tackled into touch 40m short of the line.

The Reds entered Saturday’s match having lost their previous two encounters to the Force, including a shock 19-12 defeat at Suncorp Stadium earlier this year.

Force winger Paddy Dellit further stoked the fire earlier this week when he claimed the Reds didn’t show the Force enough respect before that round-five clash.

The Reds dominated play early, and France-bound winger Digby Ioane thought he scored the opener when he touched down in the corner in the ninth minute.

However, the TMO ruled out the try after replays showed Ioane’s boot grazed the paint of the touchline.

The Force struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities early, but were given a much-needed spark when returning winger Nick Cummins marked a box kick and made off on one of his trademark runs in the 17th minute.

Although the fast break didn’t result in a try, it gave the side great field position, with five-eighth Sias Ebersohn kicking a penalty shortly after to break the deadlock.

Force hooker Heath Tessmann was influential in the first half, unleashing a series of big tackles and forcing several turnovers at the breakdown.

The Force went into half-time with a 6-3 lead, but that became an 11-3 advantage in the 52nd minute when a brilliant break from Cummins set up flanker Ben McCalman for a try.

Ebersohn missed the easy conversion, and from there the Reds dominated possession as they powered their way back into the contest. And as the Force penalty count rose, so did the pressure.

The Reds opted for line-outs instead of penalty points, and they eventually crossed the line when Feauai-Sautia barged over a glut of Force defenders to touch down in the 73rd minute.

But Cooper’s miss meant the Reds’ winless streak against the Force stretched to three games.

Reds skipper James Horwill was substituted at half-time after copping a heavy knock to the head.

“In the end we did well to get back and get two points out of the game,” Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie said. “They frustrated and harassed and kept us under pressure.”

Force coach Michael Foley was pleased with how his team rebounded from last week’s 41-7 mauling at the hands of the Brumbies. “I just think that was outstanding character,” Foley said.

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Hunter Hodgson new No.1 fan

NICK TAYLOR The West Australian   March 23, 2013

Hodgo_223BW-1

Western Force captain Matt Hodgson’s new No.1 fan will be in the stands at nib Stadium for tonight’s Super Rugby clash with the Cheetahs.

But there is every chance Hunter Patrick Hodgson will sleep through the entire 80 minutes.

Hunter, Hodgson and wife Jo’s first child, was born nine days ago, two weeks early, and his arrival meant the Force breakaway missed the celebrations after victory over the Reds in Brisbane last Saturday.

Jo had an emergency caesarean after problems were detected during a routine ultrasound and it put a new perspective on priorities for the Wallabies flanker, who was originally booked on a flight to Brisbane the day before the match.

“It certainly does give you a new perspective on things when you have gone through an experience like that,” Hodgson said.

“You don’t realise what a big event it is until you have been through it and no matter what happens now, in games or at training, when I go home it brings your life into focus.

“I had been feeling pretty low because of a hamstring problem but this keeps your feet on the ground and brings into perspective why we play the game with the support of family.”

Will young Hodgson pull on a Force jumper one day?

“It will be up to him to play whatever he wants,” his proud father said. “If he wants to play rugby then it will be here in Perth, if he wants to play AFL it will be for Freo, but I’ll be putting the golf sticks in his hands as soon as possible.”

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Baby brain for Hodgson

By Patrick Henning for RugbyWA    3/14/2013

baby brain hodgo

As Matt Hodgson boards his flight to Queensland tomorrow ahead of the Emirates Western Force’s Round 5 clash with the Reds, he may be forgiven for having a little more than the Sunshine State on his mind.

With wife Jodi heavily pregnant and an induced birth planned for Monday, a three day trip to Brisbane may be just enough to tempt fate against Hodgson. The Force skipper, however, is at ease with his decision to play this weekend and has left the margins to the doctors.

“We talk to our obstetrician quite regularly and he’s been happy to plan around my time in Perth,” Hodgson said.

“The next few days are touch and go, obviously with Monday being the ‘go’ day. I fly to Brisbane Friday and fly back Sunday so hopefully in those three days the baby doesn’t come,” he said.

Hodgson indicated today’s scans would play heavily on the decision to induce labour.

“My wife went in this morning for a heart scan and things happen pretty quickly. She’s going back this afternoon and they’ll make a decision whether or not to do it straight away, knowing that I fly out tomorrow.”

“If the baby comes today then it depends on how everything goes there, I won’t make a decision on flying out (to Brisbane) until the last possible minute,” he said.

If the impending birth of his first child isn’t enough to contemplate, Hodgson also has a fitness cloud hovering over a hamstring injury he picked up against the Bulls.

“I trained well this week and did a fair bit of testing at the University campus earlier in the week. The results have come back really positive,” he said.

“It all depends on how I travel tomorrow and how I train again.

“We want to be cautious with my hamstring; it will be a decision with a view of the rest of the season in mind.”

Despite the excitement surrounding his first child, Hodgson’s focus leading in to the weekend remains fixed on the Reds.

“When I’m training and playing my mind is 100% on the game but it gives me a lot to think about when I’m off the field,” he said.

“It’s good to have that balance and it gives me something else to put my time into away from football.”

If it so happens that Hodgson is in Queensland for the birth, it happens with the blessing of his wife.
“I won’t get in that much trouble with the wife; it will be her parents who will tell me where I should have been at the right time,” he said.

“Jodi knows that this is how my life is at the moment and she’s supportive of it. The birth is definitely important but there’s a lot more things I’ll be around for.”

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Pitch invasion overshadows Western Force Super Rugby win

AAP APRIL 14, 2013 12:49AM

The Australian force-v-crusaders

CRUSADERS centre Ryan Crotty tackled a pitch invader in the dying minutes of the Western Force’s 16-14 Super Rugby triumph in Perth.

With the Force leading the seven-time champion Crusaders by two points and the visitors making their way out of defence, a series of pitch invaders halted play in the 75th minute.

A single invader made his way onto the pitch before three more followed him out.

Crotty was clearly frustrated given the crucial stage of the match and tackled one to the ground.

A medical officer tackled one of the others.

The Force produced their best defensive effort of the season to jump off the bottom of the Australian conference just one week after being humbled at home by the lowly Rebels.

Apart from the first 12 minutes, the Crusaders dominated proceedings, with the visitors producing wave after wave of attack in an attempt to breach the Force’s defence.

Their second-half onslaught was particularly brutal as they tried to overcome a 16-8 deficit.

But the Force stood firm under the constant fire, pulling off a series of try-saving tackles.

In a revamped backline, former Wallaby Sam Norton-Knight made his run-on debut at flyhalf in place of Sias Ebersohn while Ed Stubbs was promoted to the wing, Junior Rasolea to outside centre and Jayden Hayward to fullback.

The changes paid early dividends, with Norton-Knight slipping between two opponents to score the opener in the third minute.

The Crusaders looked frazzled early and a successful penalty to Hayward made it 10-0 after 12 minutes.

But the visitors regained their composure to work their way back into the match, with a try to lock Luke Romano easing the early pressure.

Romano thought he had scored a second just before half-time, but the try was denied by the TMO due to a forward pass from Israel Dagg.

Hayward’s accurate kicking gave the Force a 16-8 advantage at half-time, and Romano was again denied a try early in the second half when scrumhalf Alby Mathewson held him up over the line.

Moments earlier, Stubbs produced a crunching tackle on Dagg to again thwart the Crusaders.

Side to side the Crusaders went, but each time they thought they had breached the Force defence, a desperate tackle would halt their bid for the line.

It seemed just a matter of time before the Crusaders would sneak through a gap.

But the moment never came.

The only gap being exposed was the lack security at nib Stadium, with five invaders all up making their way onto the pitch.

WESTERN FORCE 16 (Sam Norton-Knight try Jayden Hayward con 3 pens) CRUSADERS 14 (Luke Romano try Tyler Bleyendaal 3 pens) at nib Stadium. Referee: Jonathan Kaplan. Crowd: 16,758.

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Strong second-half defence helps Western Force outlast Crusaders in a thriller in Perth

BY JUSTIN CHADWICK AAP APRIL 13, 2013 11:50PM

Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty tackled a pitch invader in the dying minutes of the Western Force’s 16-14 Super Rugby triumph in Perth on Saturday night.

With the Force leading the seven-time champion Crusaders by two points and the visitors making their way out of defence, a series of pitch invaders halted play in the 75th minute.

A single invader made his way onto the pitch before three more followed him out.

Crotty was clearly frustrated given the crucial stage of the match and tackled one to the ground.

A medical officer tackled one of the others.

The Force produced their best defensive effort of the season to jump off the bottom of the Australian conference just one week after being humbled at home by the lowly Rebels.

Apart from the first 12 minutes, the Crusaders dominated proceedings, with the visitors producing wave after wave of attack in an attempt to breach the Force’s defence.

Their second-half onslaught was particularly brutal as they tried to overcome a 16-8 deficit.

But the Force stood firm under the constant fire, pulling off a series of try-saving tackles.

In a revamped backline, former Wallaby Sam Norton-Knight made his run-on debut at flyhalf in place of Sias Ebersohn while Ed Stubbs was promoted to the wing, Junior Rasolea to outside centre and Jayden Hayward to fullback.

The changes paid early dividends, with Norton-Knight slipping between two opponents to score the opener in the third minute.

Re-live the amazing finish as the Force hold out the Crusaders in our Super Rugby Match Centre, featuring video highlights.

The Crusaders looked frazzled early and a successful penalty to Hayward made it 10-0 after 12 minutes.

But the visitors regained their composure to work their way back into the match, with a try to lock Luke Romano easing the early pressure.

Romano thought he had scored a second just before half-time, but the try was denied by the TMO due to a forward pass from Israel Dagg.

Hayward’s accurate kicking gave the Force a 16-8 advantage at half-time, and Romano was again denied a try early in the second half when scrumhalf Alby Mathewson held him up over the line.

Moments earlier, Stubbs produced a crunching tackle on Dagg to again thwart the Crusaders.

Side to side the Crusaders went, but each time they thought they had breached the Force defence, a desperate tackle would halt their bid for the line.

It seemed just a matter of time before the Crusaders would sneak through a gap.
But the moment never came.

The only gap being exposed was the lack security at nib Stadium, with five invaders all up making their way onto the pitch.

“I think we served too much beer to the Crusaders supporters,” Foley joked when asked about the pitch invaders, before adding how proud he was of his players.

“I thought every player that took part in the game, which was the whole 22, did very well.

“To me there was a real unity in terms of what the players did on the field.”

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Western Force welcome back skipper Matt Hodgson for the Super Rugby clash against the Cheetahs

Western Force welcome back skipper Matt Hodgson for the Super Rugby clash against the Cheetahs

AAP MARCH 21, 2013 9:00PM

Hodgo clash

Western Force will be bolstered by the return of captain Matt Hodgson and lock Sam Wykes for Saturday night’s Super Rugby clash with the Cheetahs at nib Stadium.

But Wallabies winger Nick Cummins is still battling a knee injury and will miss the match.

Hodgson did not play in the Force’s 19-12 win over the Reds in Queensland due to a hamstring injury and also to be present at the birth of his first son.

Wykes replaces Phoenix Battye in the squad after overcoming an ankle injury.

The match will pit Western Force flyhalf Sias Ebersohn up against his twin – Cheetahs centre Robert Ebersohn – for the first time.

The Cheetahs enter the match full of confidence following road wins over the NSW Waratahs and Highlanders.

But they’ll be without flyhalf Johan Goosen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury at training.

The match is the Force’s first at home this season, and also the first time they’ve played at nib Stadium since the recent $95 million redevelopment.

Force coach Michael Foley said it was vital to win the fans over in what was a new era at the franchise.

“An important part of our development will be to earn the respect of our people through the way we perform in our home,” Foley said.

“Last week, we showed great character in the way we supported each other through the 80 minutes.

“To hold the Reds tryless was important, as we face another strong attacking side this week.”

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Hodgson confirms his future is with the Force

09/03/2013

Justin Chadwick, RugbyHeaven SMH

Matt committed to Force

Wallabies breakaway Matt Hodgson wants to finish his career as a one-club player after re-signing with the Western Force for a further two Super Rugby seasons.

Hodgson, a foundation player at the Force who has notched 85 caps since making his debut in 2006, had tentative offers to continue his career in Japan after this season.

But with the birth of his first son expected next week, Hodgson said he and his family were happily settled in Perth and didn’t want to move.

”My wife and I love living in Perth and we didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Hodgson said.

”I’ve been here for eight years now. We’ve got a baby on the way and I’d love to be part of the first father-son rule for the Force.

”Being part of the longer-term development of this side was a big motivation for re-signing.”

”While it may take a few years, I’m really keen to be part of that and be part of the club improving each year and growing into a successful club.

”The lure of playing 100 caps for the Force is another motivation and it’d be a great achievement to be the first person to achieve that for Western Australian rugby.

”Having begun my Super Rugby career here, it’s great to have the opportunity to end my career here in the west. And my life after rugby is definitely in Western Australia.”

Hodgson, who has notched six Test caps for the Wallabies, was named captain of the Force late last year after Nathan Sharpe’s retirement.

The Force hope Hodgson’s decision to stay will convince other players to re-sign.

”As we look to build our side over the next three seasons, it’s a significant boost to have Hodgo on board during this period,” Force coach Michael Foley said. ”He’s been heavily involved in helping develop the way we want to play and leading the standards we’ve set for this side, which is crucial in helping us to grow to become the team we want to become.”

The Force are winless after three games, and will start as rank underdogs against the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/union-news/hodgson-confirms-his-future-is-with-the-force-20130309-2fsai.html#ixzz2N5keUL6Y

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Skipper a force for good

09/03/2013

Justin Chadwick

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

2013 Super Rugby Season Launch

Western Force captain and foundation player Matt Hodgson has signed a new two-year contract with the club.

The Force, who have more than 12 players off-contract this year, hope Hodgson’s decision will help retain and attract key personnel.

The Wallabies flanker, the popular choice for captain after Nathan Sharpe retired and David Pocock left for the Brumbies, turned down a number of offers to play overseas and wants to finish his career in Perth.

Hodgson’s wife Jo is expecting their first son next week, a major factor in the decision. The 32-year-old and the club will officially announce the re-signing today.

“I had a lot of talks with (coach) Michael Foley during the pre- season and since the season started and I can see the direction the club is taking,” he said.

“I can see the restructuring taking place and I desperately wanted to be a part of the future.

“I did have tentative offers from Japan and the like, but with the realisation that the club can go further and the realisation of my new family dynamic I never looked at them too seriously.

“I wanted to be a part of the Force and end my career here. I didn’t go into the other offers once the Force asked me to stay.

“My main goal was always to stay in Australia and Perth was the only option for me.”

Hodgson took over the captaincy when Foley was appointed last August.

He had captained the side two months earlier for the first time in its 42-0 win over the South Australian President’s XV in Adelaide.

At the time of the announcement Foley said Hodgson was an acknowledged leader within the rugby community.

“Hodgo represents everything good in team sport,” he said.

“He’s a selfless supporter, he’s someone who gives 100 per cent every week and he displays all the qualities we hope to build into the squad over the next year or so.”

Hodgson is obviously disappointed with the season start but is confident results will improve.

“We’ve started the process now and we’ve got three years to get where we want to be,” he said. “I want to be a part of that and lead the team into that new dynamic.”

Hodgson has made 85 appearances for the club, sitting behind only Sharpe (92).

He is a dual Force player of the year (2009 and 2010) and a three-times winner of the Force Man award, in 2006, 2007 and 2010.

He has been capped six times for the Wallabies and last year won the Rugby Union Players’ Association Academic Award, recognising his off-field development that has seen him complete a Bachelor of Science. He is currently working towards a Masters in Sports Law.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/sport/a/-/basketball/16332471/skipper-a-force-for-good/

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Confidence-building loss is a ‘win’ for Force

04/03/2013

Wayne Smith, The Australian

vs Bulls

THERE are no short cuts, Western Force coach Michael Foley declared last week, but then his impressive new breakaway Angus Cottrell went and found one.

Nothing like an intercept try to inject belief into a side fraught with uncertainty. Just ask the 2003 Wallabies following Stirling Mortlock’s stunning 70m try against the run of play in the World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks.

To that point, all the indicators suggested a substantial NZ victory but when Mortlock latched on to Carlos Spencer’s long spiral pass and bounded into clear space, the Wallabies visibly lifted. Shoulders squared, chests puffed, jaws jutted and what had shaped as a shambles reformed, formidable again.

Sadly, Cottrell’s intercept try against the Bulls in Pretoria yesterday didn’t have quite the same effect on the Force but what followed his touchdown was about 20 minutes of that rarest of commodities where the Perth team is concerned, self-belief.

Level on the scoreboard, they pulled ahead of the home team in the conviction stakes and it came as no surprise when Toby Lynn burrowed over for a well-earned try on the back of a lineout move. At 26-19 and even at 26-22 with only eight minutes to go, Force had its fingertips on its first win of the season and only its second in 12 matches.

But then the Bulls got their driving maul rumbling – goodness, who would have thought they would have resorted to that under pressure – and so powered through the Force that by the time Jean Cook was driven over the line for the go-ahead try, the blue-jerseyed South African forwards were almost running.

And yet still the Force wasn’t finished, muscling its way back into Bulls territory until replacement back Jayden Hayward, who earlier had brought undone his scrum’s great work by kicking directly into touch on the full, played on after being tackled and was penalised. Back came the Bulls again and, thanks to a short-arm after the Force botched their feed to a scrum near their own line, they managed to score again through prop Werner Kruger long after the siren had sounded.

It was a gut-wrenching final scene. Ten minutes earlier the Force had looked likely to take four competition points away from a match which no one had given the visitors a chance of winning and now, beaten 36-26, they were denied even a bonus point.

“The Force will be wondering how they lost … as they were in control for most of the second half,” mused the Planet Rugby website. Maybe, but one thing is certain, Force coach Michael Foley won’t have any trouble identifying why yet another game slipped through his side’s fingers: inexperience.

In a telephone conversation on match eve, he almost predicted to me what would happen. “While we’re getting better, there still will be errors,” Foley had said. “On the back of a disappointing season and then losing two very experienced players (in Nathan Sharpe, to retirement, and David Pocock, to the Brumbies), we’ll play well at times but when things go wrong we don’t have the experience to deal with it.”

On the face of it, the Force has made no improvement under Foley. They are 0-3 at the start of this season, just as they were at the corresponding point of their 2012 campaign. Indeed, they haven’t won one of their first three games since 2009. And it would have to be said that their outing against the Southern Kings a week ago was right up there vying with Queensland’s 6-5 win over the Sharks in Durban in 2004 and the Tahs’ 3-23 loss to the Cheetahs in Sydney in 2011 for the title of worst Super Rugby performance by an Australian team.

The truth is, however, that the Force has improved and quite dramatically. It was confronting to see an Australian side employing South African tactics against the Bulls, but Foley was smart enough to realise that if he was going to venture down that path, who better to implement the game plan than a South African, Sias Ebersohn, the former Cheetahs five-eighth?

Not since Berrick Barnes did it playing for the Reds against the Stormers in 2008 has any player in an Australian team kicked two field goals in a Super Rugby match and while that’s almost reprehensible in this part of the world, the fact is that the Force needed to get some pay for all its hard work.

Field goals might be un-Australian but they have their uses and Foley is pragmatic enough to realise that before his side starts winning matches it first has to get in some contests.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/opinion/confidence-building-loss-is-a-win-for-force/story-e6frg7v6-1226589466080

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Michael Foley SA Tour 2013

Bulls beat Western Force in Pretoria

03/03/2013 

Rugby Gold, AAP  

THE Western Force improve enormously but it’s quite enough to avoid a 36-26 loss to the powerful Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

The Force lost narrowly to the Melbourne Rebels to start the Super Rugby season and then put in a poor performance to hand rookie side the Southern Kings victory in Port Elizabeth, but it was a vastly different team on Saturday night.

Coach Michael Foley brought experienced South African fly-half Sias Ebersohn into the line-up and he went on to kick two field goals, two penalties and two try conversions.

The Force seriously threatened the Bulls when leading 26-19 after a Toby Lynn try early in the second half, but the home side went on to score 17 straight points to end up with a four-try bonus point victory, the Force missing out on a point altogether.

It took just over a minute for the Bulls to make the perfect start when unlikely runner Morne Steyn, better known as a kicking machine, had no trouble carving through the non-existent Force defence to score the try.

The Force’s kicking game was disastrous in their opening two losses, and the new game plan was quickly evident when Ebersohn nailed a drop goal at the 10-minute mark.

Both teams then traded penalties, including a 58-metre bomb by Ebersohn, with the Bulls leading 14-9 going into half-time.

An Ebersohn field goal for the Force started the second half before the Bulls scored another simple try, this time to winger Sampie Mastriet.

However, the Force weren’t ready to throw in the towel and in the 46th minute levelled the scores at 19-19 through a converted try to Angus Cottrell.

The Bulls then surprisingly turned down an easy penalty goal to go for a lineout, but the Force defence created a turnover and from that Lynn went on to score his second career try in his 50th Super Rugby match.

When Ebersohn converted, the Force led a stunned Bulls outfit 26-19 but the home side powered home with a penalty and two late tries.

BULLS 36 (Jean Cook, Werner Kruger, Sampie Mastriet, Morne Steyn tries Steyn 2 cons 4 pens) d WESTERN FORCE 26 (Angus Cottrell, Toby Lynn tries Sias Ebersohn 2 cons 2 pens 2 drop goals) at Loftus Versfeld. Referee: Jason Jafta.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/sport/rugby-gold/bulls-beat-western-force-in-pretoria/story-fn8t7efs-1226589211041

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Western Force in shock loss to new team Southern Kings

24/02/2013 

Rugby Gold, AAP 

THE Western Force’s season could already be in tatters after a 22-10 loss to Super Rugby’s new boys the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

The Kings dominated the second half at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to outscore the Force 17-0 to win their first game in the competition after replacing the Lions as South Africa’s fifth franchise.

The Force were coming off a narrow loss to the Melbourne Rebels and now face unenviable task of taking on the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld next weekend.

It’s hard to know if the Force’s poor goal kicking, concession of far too many penalties or a disappointing lineout let them down the most.

Captain Matt Hodgson was obviously disappointed in the team’s performance.

“We had possession and the run of the game in that first 30, but couldn’t put points on the board and we have to learn to put points on when we have possession,” Hodgson said in his post-match interview.

“It’s not only our goal kicking that lost us the game. It was the whole team effort that was not up to scratch tonight.”

Both teams missed early penalty goal attempts with Kyle Godwin off target for the Force and Demetri Catrakilis for the Kings.

While neither team’s kicking improved, tries soon became the order of the night firstly for the Kings when 18-year-old winger Sergeal Petersen cruised to the try line after two disastrous kicking errors by the Force.

The visitors quickly hit back with back-to-back tries before half-time to Pek Cowan and Alfie Mafi.

They led 10-5 at half-time but the home side closed the gap two when Catrakilis finally kicked the first penalty of the game to start the second half and he added another 12 minutes in to put the Kings in front 11-10.

Things got worse for the Force a minute later when Hugh McMeniman was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Ronnie Cooke.

The Kings took advantage of his absence with Petersen scoring his second try to put his team up 16-10 and it was 19-10 when Catrakilis nailed another penalty with 14 minutes remaining.

Another penalty with 10 minutes to go put the game out of the West Australians’ reach.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/sport/rugby-gold/western-force-in-shock-loss-to-new-team-southern-kings/story-fn8t7efs-1226584326755

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Western Force braced for brutal encounter on South African road trip

23/02/2013

Dale Granger, The Sunday Times

THE Western Force, experiencing South Africa at its most bizarre on their Super Rugby road trip, travel to one of the most brutal rugby venues in the world next week.

They square up to the Bulls in the home city of Olympian murder accused Oscar Pistorius.

The arrival of the Perth club in Port Elizabeth last week coincided with the funeral of Pistorius’ slain model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in her hometown.

Now the team flies to Pretoria, the city where Steenkamp is alleged to have been murdered by Pistorius. Lining up to face them on Saturday will be Steenkamp’s Springbok ex-boyfriend, Francois Hougaard.

Steenkamp’s continued friendship with the Bulls scrumhalf was rumoured on social media sites in the hours after her death to have sparked a jealous reaction from Pistorius.

The Force, already having chased a spy with video equipment from bushes alongside their training field in Port Elizabeth, may be forgiven for longing for the serenity and sanity of Perth, as they prepare to jump from the frying pan into the fire at Loftus Versfeld, a citadel of Afrikaner nationalism where visiting teams are subjected to open hostility.

Blues captain Keven Mealamu was hit by a bottle at the stadium last year and on one tour the Force were denied a training ground by the Afrikaner High School, a nursery of many Bulls players, and had to practice their lineouts in the hotel car park.

Force captain Matt Hodgson, nevertheless, has fond memories of both Loftus Versfeld and Pretoria, where the Force stunned the three-time champions in 2007 and silenced their boorish crowd with a 30-27 win.

Hodgson also said the Force were bonding well on their tour, focusing on rugby, despite the sideshows and courtroom dramas they have been indirectly linked to via sporting connections.

“It’s a tough place, for sure,” Hodgson said of Pretoria.

“As a squad we tour quite well and bond well away from Perth. Especially this year, with so many new guys in the squad, spending time on and off the field means better combinations.

“We are seeing results on the training paddock and it’s only a matter of time before it clicks on the field.”

Not many teams win at Loftus, where the Bulls’ longest unbeaten run stretched from 2008 to 2011, so Hodgson has vivid memories of the 2007 victory, of which teammates Richard Brown and Pek Cowan are the only fellow survivors.

“You never forget those encounters. It (Pretoria) reminds me of a similar experience with the Blues in (State of Origin) Rugby League clashes. People are out on the streets getting ready for the game and barbequeing.

“The excitement and atmosphere starts as you leave the hotel and once you enter the stadium the crowd is quite hostile.”

Hodgson, however, knows what it takes to beat the Bulls in their laager, and said of the task ahead: “If you can take the game to them early and put the ball behind them, they can get stuck.

“If you can stick to your structures and gameplan, then the crowd can turn on them, so silencing the crowd would be a win for us.”

http://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/rugby-gold/western-force-braced-for-brutal-encounter-on-south-african-road-trip/story-fn8tn89d-1226584158116

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Western Force ready for hostile reception against newcomer Southern Kings

16/02/2013

Dale Granger, The Sunday Times  

THE Western Force is bracing for a hostile reception at the 48,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night.

It will be a big night as the Southern Kings, representing the Xhosa rugby playing tribe of the Eastern Cape, will be making their Super Rugby debut.

Only the Force’s Test capped players have experienced a crowd of this size. The Kings have been selling tickets for as little as $3.50 to guarantee a barrage of abuse from a capacity crowd targeted at rattling the Perth club.

Coming off a gutsy, 30-23 loss to the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night, the Force flew out at first light yesterday for its two-game tour of South Africa, which culminates in a fortnight against the triple-champion Bulls in Pretoria.

Before jetting out, Force coach Michael Foley, revealed how the club had been preparing the squad for an electric-charged atmosphere in Port Elizabeth by encouraging his players to feed off the energy of the crowd.

“It (crowd atmosphere) is really hard to replicate in practice, as you can’t have large stereos on site, but South African crowds are special and that’s the way we need to see it,” Foley said.

“This is a game we want to do well in and win. These sort of opportunities come so rarely and it’s so special to go and play in front of a big crowd on this occasion.

“I have memories of Kings Park (Sharks Stadium in Durban) as a player and know the players should be excited and energised about it.”

The killer blow for the Force in Friday night’s opening Super Rugby clash in Melbourne came late in the second half when trigger-happy referee Angus Gardner fired yellow cards at flanker Chris Alcock and halfback Alby Mathewson, reducing the Force to 13 men at a crucial time of the game.

The first of three yellow cards, dished out to Rebels flanker Scott Higginbotham, appeared harsh, with Mathewson’s scrumhalf spat with opposing halfback Nick Phipps little more than “handbags at five paces”.

Coaches and players face heavy censure under SANZAR regulations for criticising the performance of match officials and Foley did not allow himself to be drawn into the sin-binning of his players.

“What I will say is how proud I am that when we were down to 13 men we fought back to score out third try,” he said. “If anything, that effort epitomised the character and spirit of the side on the day.”

Indeed, soon after Mathewson’s exit, the Rebels spun the ball wide where superior numbers swept wing Richard Kingi over for a 27-16 lead.

But after Richard Brown scored the Force’s third try, coming off a solid forward onslaught, the visitors found themselves within a converted try of sharing the spoils and banking three points.

It was not to be, but Foley was “very, very pleased” with the halfback and inside-centre combination of Mathewson, Sam Christie and Kyle Godwin that set the lanchpad to fire Alfie Mafi over for two tries out wide.

In spite of Godwin’s exciting playmaking potential, the flyhalf missed two conversions and a penalty as former Force star James O’Connor kicked 15 points for a 100 per cent return at goal.

The jury is still out on whether the Force has found a reliable kicking replacement for O’Connor, its last ace marksman, but Foley is unperturbed.

“In pre-season training, Kyle was kicking 80 per cent,” he said. “This was only our first game of the season and I’m not concerned about our kicking,” Foley said.

http://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/rugby-gold/western-force-ready-for-hostile-reception-against-newcomer-southern-kings/story-fn8tn89d-1226579457414

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Melbourne Rebels open Super Rugby account with 30-23 win over Western Force at AAMI Park

15/02/2013

Melissa Woods,  AAP

Melbourne Rebels are first on the Super Rugby winners’ list after escaping with a 30-23 win over Western Force in their season-opening clash.

The Rebels trailed 11-0 midway through Friday night’s opening half at AAMI Park, but three tries and 15 points from the radar boot of star fullback James O’Connor helped the home team to victory.

The Force were rocked in the second half when they had only 13 players for seven minutes with key flanker Chris Alcock and then halfback Alby Mathewson both yellow-carded for seemingly innocuous off-the-ball incidents.

Referee Angus Gardner had already set a precedent in the first half, yellow-carding Rebels recruit Scott Higginbotham for allegedly throwing a punch at Force lock Toby Lynn.

While the Force duo were off, Rebels winger Richard Kingi touched down after a long pass across field by O’Connor, with the conversion opening the lead up to 11 points.

But the Perth side showed their spirit with replacement forward Richard Brown scoring in the 69th minute for a 27-23 scoreline.

Force winger Alfie Mafi did his best to help his side snap a two-game losing streak to Melbourne, scoring two tries, but in the end the Rebels had too much firepower.

It started as a slow burn, however, with Melbourne playing the first half with only 40 per cent possession.

With the Force piling on the pressure, the Rebels’ error rate was costly early on as they struggled to find rhythm.

The visitors, missing injured skipper Matt Hodgson, set up their 11-0 lead through the boot of rising star Kyle Godwin and Mafi’s first try.

Tries each side of the main break, scored by hooker Ged Robinson and Hugh Pyle, proved the difference.

Re-live the action and check out the key stats with our Super Rugby Match Centre.

Pyle’s try came after Kingi showed his skill and managed to bat the ball back inside to the athletic lock as he was going over the sideline.

While O’Connor looked sharp after a long stint on the sidelines with a troublesome hamstring, Kiwi Mathewson also impressed in his Force debut, particularly in the first half.

It was their third straight victory over the Force and biggest winning margin, with only a point deciding their past two clashes.

Despite the tight scoreline, coach Damien Hill said there were a lot of positives, not the least being the first opening-round win for the Rebels.

He was particularly pleased with the effort of the tight five, especially prop Laurie Weeks and second-rowers Pyle and Luke Jones.

“In the first 20 minutes, we chose not to treasure possession and then the discipline started to go as fatigue started to build.

“For the first 30 minutes, we were on the back foot but, to the players’ credit, they were able to go into the second half still in the game.

“The second half, while not as clinical as we would have liked, was better.”

Force coach Michael Foley, in his first Super game since switching from NSW, was also pleased with his team’s effort, pointing to their ball usage.

He wasn’t too fazed by the two yellow cards, saying the teams had been warned on a crackdown.

“The referees have warned us they are going to be particularly tough early in the season because they want to see the game open up.

“If we’ve infringed and they’ve made those decisions, we accept that.”

The Force next travel to South Africa to face new team the Southern Kings while the Rebels host the Brumbies next week.

http://www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/super-rugby/melbourne-rebels-open-super-rugby-account-with-30-23-win-over-western-force-at-aami-park/story-e6frf4qu-1226579153612#.UTflueNgiFc

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Matt Hodgson Season Launch 2013

Western Force captain Matt Hodgson says his team seeks to earn respect of Super Rugby foes

14/02/2013

Alistair Hogg, FOX SPORTS 

Matt Hodgson has big shoes to fill at Western Force and that’s not even accounting for the size 12 boot of the versatile backrower.

The Force’s newly-appointed captain follows in the giant footsteps of recently-retired Nathan Sharpe and David Pococok, who joined the Brumbies in the off-season.

Throughout Hodgson’s seven years in Perth, he’s reaped the benefits of developing under the tutelage of one of the best leaders Australian sport has ever seen and will now put his skills to the test after being named skipper last August.

“We’re lucky we had Nathan for so long and he’s moulded a fair few players along his way,” the 83-cap Super Rugby veteran said at Wednesday’s Super Rugby season launch.

“We’ve got a lot of existing leadership that has been trained up under him but also the recruitment of new players such as Alby Mathewson, who has really taken on that role and is a big plus for us in the backs.”

Also appointed in August, new Force coach Michael Foley has spent the off-season adjusting to life in the west and it didn’t take long for him to identify one of the club’s key strengths.

“The thing that has stood out most for me is probably Hodgo’s leadership,” he said.

“He’s extremely sincere in the way he approaches things and has great credibility amongst the players as a result.

“When I first arrived, I asked him what he wanted to achieve with the team. Having been there for so long, it was important to him that the team was respected and I think having a player group that pushes each other as hard as these guys have done is fantastic.”

The Force are yet to win an opening round clash in seven attempts and will try to buck the trend on Friday night in Melbourne, albeit without Hodgson who is still recovering from a hamstring injury suffered at training.

“I think starting the season on the road is good for us, Foley added.

“It gives us time away from any distractions and spending time together allows us to come together as a team.”

 

In fact, the Force open their season with four road games and a bye, meaning the Perth faithful won’t see their team until March 23.

But Foley knows they’ll be waiting with anticipation when his team finally arrives at nib Stadium to face the Cheetahs in round six.

“Loyal fans like ours who stick with you through thick and thin are rare. It’s a massive thing for the players who make sure they don’t take it for granted,” he said.

“When Hodgo talked about earning respect, we started initially with each other, but then made sure those people at the ground who are there for us know we appreciate them a great deal.”

2013 Western Force Squad
Chris Alcock, Phoenix Battye, Richard Brown, Nathan Charles, Sam Christie, Angus Cottrell, Pekahou Cowan, Nick Cummins, Patirck Dellit, Sias Ebersohn, Tetera Faulkner, Kyle Godwin, Jayden Hayward, James Hilterbrand, Matt Hodgson, Kieran Longbottom, Toby Lynn, Alife Mafi, Salesu Ma’afu, Salesi Manu, Alby Mathewson, Lachlan McCaffrey, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Sam Norton-Knight, Junior Rasolea, Brett Sheehan, Mick Snowden, Winston Stanley, Ed Stubbs, Chris Tuatara, Will Tupou, Rory Walton, Ben Whittaker, Sam Wykes.

http://www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/super-rugby/western-force-captain-matt-hodgson-has-a-hard-act-to-follow-as-team-craves-respect-from-super-rugby-foes/story-e6frf4qu-1226577876667#.UTfnc-NgiFc

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Rebels ready for Force in Super opener

11/02/2013  

Melissa Woods, AAP

As they prepare to unleash their own backrow sensation Scott Higginbotham, the Melbourne Rebels believe the loss of injured skipper Matt Hodgson will be a huge blow for the Western Force in their Super Rugby opener on Friday night.

The Rebels host the Force at AAMI Park with Wallaby and former Queensland Red Higginbotham set to make his debut appearance for his new club.

He hasn’t played in either of their trials due to a shoulder complaint.

The Force will go into the match without hard-working flanker Hodgson after he suffered a hamstring injury at training.

Melbourne skipper Gareth Delve likened the loss of Hodgson to the absence of David Pocock, who switched to the Brumbies, and veteran Nathan Sharpe, who has retired.

“Hodgo is a great player for them and has been a great leader even when they had Nathan Sharpe and Dave Pocock there last year,” said Delve.

“He shone in a lot of their matches because he’s a whole-hearted player who gets stuck in no matter what.

“With him out I think it will be a loss because he’s been an impressive player.”

Delve said Higginbotham had slotted straight in at the club and the backrow was working hard to match him.

Despite chalking up three wins from three outings against the Force, which accounts for almost half their tally of seven wins in their two seasons in the competition, the Rebels are far from complacent against the Perth-based team, who have a new coach in Michael Foley.

“We’ve got three wins but I think they’ve all been by a point so we’ve tended to get off a good start and then let them reel us back in for a tight finish,” said Delve.

“It’s obviously something we’d like to avoid while maintaining a positive record about them.

“We’d be confident going into it but we know we need to perform because it’s the season opener and we want to get off to a good start.”

Star Rebels fullback James O’Connor had 18 stitches in a facial wound suffered during a two-point loss in their trial against the Hurricanes on the weekend but he was back into training on Monday.

“He’s not quite as pretty as he was so I think Rabs (O’Connor) might be going to push a new tough guy image,” he said.

“He’s earned a big of kudos from the forwards.”

 

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Western Force coach Michael Foley buoyed by side’s strong defence

10/02/2013

Dale Granger, The Sunday Times

WESTERN Force coach Michael Foley pointed more to the zero on the scoreboard next to the Tongan Select XV than the 46 points tallied by the Force in Mandurah on Friday night as a reflection of his side’s combat readiness for their opening Super Rugby clash with the Rebels this week.

The Force ran in eight tries in its final dress rehearsal resulting from good interplay between backs and forwards.

It would have been tempting to wax lyrical over Alfi Mafi’s running on the wing, the flowing cohesion of the inside backs and the solid performance of the pack.

Nevertheless, it was the Perth club’s determination to keep its opponents try-less that struck a chord with the coach.

“In the last 20 minutes we made a lot of changes and they kept going,” Foley said. “Credit to them, we could have let in a soft one having got the result and played the majority of the game well.

“It was an important statement for us as a squad and with the Academy guys training with us. We talk about earning one another’s respect and there was a fair bit of that tonight.”

The Force faces a tough early start to this year’s campaign, hopping straight on to a plane next Saturday for the long flight to South Africa for a two-game tour against the Kings in Port Elizabeth and the Bulls in Pretoria.

Attitude will go some distance to defining the team’s success and building confidence.

Foley said he was not questioning his players’ commitment to the tough task ahead.

“I think our attitude is spot-on at the moment, and that’s something we need to maintain throughout, which is always the biggest task with a big group of people,” he said.

“The challenge will come in different forms and if we can maintain the attitude we have now we’ll keep going forward.”

Foley cautioned that while there was still plenty to do, his overall verdict was an extremely pleasing endorsement of what the players had achieved throughout the pre-season.

“We’ve put down some significant foundations and the substance of that is largely the players hard work and high standards they set themselves,” he said.

“We’re really looking forward to ripping into the season. We can’t wait to start next week and appreciate how much of a challenge it’s going to be.”

The Force will start in Melbourne on Friday without inspirational captain elect Matt Hodgson, who is out with a hamstring strain.

However, Foley passed the rest of his squad fit for battle, saying young inside-centre Kyle Godwin was substituted as a cautionary measure. Similarly, lock Hugh McMeniman was rested for a strained bicep.

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Foley aware of Super challenge

09/02/2013

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

In the past two Super Rugby seasons, teams needed at least 10 wins to have any chance of making the finals series – and even then there was no guarantee.

So even the most one-eyed Force supporter must see that, after a shocking 2012 season in which the Force scraped together just three wins, 10 victories is not going to be just a mountain to climb – it is a sheer rock face that has to be scaled.

It is against that backdrop that new coach Michael Foley will lead his charges. It is a daunting chall- enge, but one he is relishing and enjoying while being realistic enough to know that he has a huge task with a new-look side.

“We are not going to go from a team that has been struggling to immediate success,” he said.

“You don’t suddenly get there with a young and inexperienced side but this is an exciting first step towards growing the momentum for the future.”

He believes the third year of his term in charge will be the benchmark year, when the side should be looking at reaching that 10-win target.

For now, though, he has been getting ready for “The Relaunch”, as he christened it.

“I certainly look at it as a new team,” he said.

“There’s a real opportunity over time to grow the game.

“If we carry baggage from the past it will slow us down.

“It is important to recognise the need to set the bar at a different place and begin again.”

While his forwards look strong despite the loss of Nathan Sharpe and David Pocock, the area in desperate need of a relaunch is the midfield, where last year the Force game was limited.

Foley has said he wants to play an expansive style this year.

“There has been an emphasis on recruiting backs with good physical abilities but also good feet and good hands,” he said.

“There is a lot of young talent in the backs and they will start their journey this year.

“We definitely have better depth and we expect to be a lot better.”

But it will be tough.

“There is not a side that we don’t respect,” he said. “We don’t envisage any easy games. Every side is going to start with intensity but if we play with a unified approach we will do well. Players have chall- enged themselves to earn each other’s respect. They have a high expectation within themselves and we have faith in them.

“This team is 100 per cent committed to earning the respect of each other but importantly our supporters and all stakeholders. None of us take that support for granted and it is vitally important that we don’t take it for granted.”

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Force look smart against Tongans

09/02/2013

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

 There was much to like about the Western Force’s eight-try 46-0 demolition of a Tongan Select XV at Meadow Springs last night.

Coach Michael Foley was content with his side’s performance, a week out from the Super season opener against the Rebels in Melbourne.

Granted, the opposition had been thrown together only this week, but any Tongan side is a tough unit.

The Force led by only 19 points at the break, but piled on the points in the second half and even when Foley made a number of changes in that period, his men maintained the dominance.

The backs showed good hands and a willingness to both run from deep and use the width of the field.

The pack scrummaged well, were dominant in the loose and the line-out was much improved.

Foley had plenty of talent on show in the back row and the new defensive patterns proved too strong for the Tongans.

He played his cards close to his chest and would have gone into the game with a fair idea of the side he will name against the Rebels, particularly the forward pack.

But he was giving little away on his first-choice back line.

Again he used Will Tupou at full-back and Patrick Dellit and Alfie Mafi on the wings early in the game and on their showing, particularly Mafi’s, Wallaby Nick Cummins who is ready to start next week may find himself pushing for a spot.

In the centres the money is on Jayden Hayward and Chris Tuatara-Morrison to start the season but Foley handed local youngster and Australian Junior World Cup fly-half Kyle Godwin the starting role at No.12 partnering Winston Stanley.

Whatever option Foley chooses, there was certainly more cohesion than last season and they lost nothing when Tuatara-Morrison and Junior Rasolea were brought into the midfield.

Foley said there were some good early signs.

“Very pleasing, definitely a step forward from last week,” he said.

“The guys, particularly at 9 and 10, made some excellent decisions.

“The defence was very good. What was particularly pleasing was when we made a raft of changes and the guys stuck to the system and got a couple of turnovers close to our line.

“There’s a real toughness about the people we have and we know there’s going to be some significant challenges for us this year but we’ve got the right sort of people to get through that.”

Hooker Nathan Charles, Stanley, flanker Chris Alcock, Tuatara-Morrison and Ryan Louwrens each scored a try and Rasolea scored two. The Force were also awarded a penalty try.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Skipper Hodgson doubtful for Force opener

06/02/2013

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

Western Force have had a major setback nine days out from the start of the Super Rugby season with captain Matt Hodgson straining a hamstring.

Coach Michael Foley is waiting for results of scans today after the openside flanker limped off at training yesterday.

Medical staff said it was too early to assess the damage and could not give a time frame on Hodgson’s return.

However, there is every chance he could miss the season opener against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday week and the first leg of the Force’s South African tour, the historic clash with newcomers Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

The Force will hope to have Hodgson fit for the second game in South Africa, in Pretoria against the Bulls.

If he does not recover for that game then he will have a further week to rest as the Force have a bye on their return from South Africa before taking on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.

Hodgson is a crucial member of the Force’s strong back row and his loss will mean a rethink for new coach Foley, who may look to start Chris Alcock in the No.7 jumper.

Alcock, a tough ball carrier, followed Foley from the Waratahs to Perth this season.

Another option could be Lachlan McCaffrey, who is in his second season at the Force, or Angus Cottrell, who moved up from the Force extended player squad this year.

Hodgson, a Force foundation member who started in the first game against the Brumbies, was a popular choice for captain after David Pocock left the club to go to the Brumbies.

He is the Force’s second-highest capped player with 83 appearances and could pass former captain Nathan Sharpe’s record of 92 this season.

Matt Hodgson at Training 05.02.2013

Matt Hodgson at Training 05.02.2013

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Resurrection gathers Force

05/02/2013

The Australian

SEASON 2012 will be remembered as one of the darkest chapters in the short history of the Western Force.

A 3-13 win-loss record and 14th place on the ladder makes for horrible reading.

The mid-season departure of coach Richard Graham to Queensland was a bitter pill.

The retirement of stalwart Nathan Sharpe, although expected, left a gaping hole.

And skipper David Pocock’s defection to the Brumbies – after Will Genia’s decision not to join the Perth-based franchise – left the Force in a state of shock.

With no coach, no captain, and a playing list bereft of match-winners, the future looked glum.

Yet from the ashes of the Force’s 2012 disaster, a sense of optimism and hope has emerged for the new season in 2013.

In the words of new coach Michael Foley, it’s time to “relaunch” the Force.

Foley failed to spark the Waratahs last season, netting just four wins in a disappointing campaign but the former Wallabies hooker is confident he is the right man to finally guide the Force to the success they crave.

Foley has gathered a strong team of assistants and strategists and an overhaul of the team’s misfiring backline has boosted hopes of a far more attacking Force outfit this season.

The squad still lacks major starpower but the Brumbies proved last season that hungry players can sometimes be at least as effective as highly paid stars.

“Talented players don’t necessarily equate to success in team sport,” Foley said.

“The recruitment from my perspective was around individuals who are very hungry to prove a point.”

To taste success, the Force will need to overcome the flyhalf curse that has plagued it since its inception in 2006.

Over the past seven years, 16 five-eighths have come and gone and only Matt Giteau enjoyed any sustained success in the role.

This season, South African sharpshooter Sias Ebersohn is set to get first crack at the No 10 jersey. Former Wallaby Sam Norton-Knight and Australian Under-20 flyhalf Kyle Godwin are other options should Ebersohn not fire.

The loss of champion lock Sharpe and world-class flanker Pocock is huge.

But Foley has faith in the leadership of new skipper Matt Hodgson, who will join forces with fellow Wallabies Ben McCalman and Richard Brown to form a formidable back row.

With Wallabies scrumhalf Brett Sheehan (ankle) set to miss at least the first four weeks of the season, former All Black Alby Mathewson will wear the No 9 jersey and add a touch of quality.

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Western Force starts afresh with trial

01/02/2013

The Australian

THE Western Force is keen to erase memories of a poor 2012 with a solid showing in its first trial match of the season against the Brumbies at Rugby Park in Darwin tonight.

The Force finished last in the Australian conference with just three wins, marking another year it was well out of finals reckoning.

There’s no indication things will get any easier for the franchise entering its eighth year in Super Rugby, with the loss of outstanding flanker David Pocock to the Brumbies and the retirement of Wallabies stalwart Nathan Sharpe hardly helping the cause.

But new Force captain Matt Hodgson says the squad, which contains 11 new faces including ex-Waratah Sam Norton-Knight and towering former Reds lock Hugh McMeniman, is only looking ahead.

“It is a new leaf for us,” Hodgson said in Darwin.

“We started fresh when we all came together early in the pre-season so we sort of wiped what we could from last year out of our memories and we are starting afresh.”

“We are trying a lot of things, different combinations.”

The match marks an early initiation for Pocock, a foundation player with the Force.

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said he expected the outstanding No 7 to come in for a bit of stick from his former teammates.

“I’ll say he’ll probably get a little niggle but, a guy with his experience, he’s probably been targeted a lot before,” Mowen said.

He said most of the squad would play about 40 minutes each because of the high humidity of the Top End.

Former Wallaby winger Clyde Rathbone is also expected to start in his first match back since his 2009 retirement.

Rathbone was capped 49 times for the Brumbies and 26 times for Australia before a series of injuries curtailed the outside back’s career.

The South African-born Rathbone battled with weight gain and depression for several years before getting fit and announcing a return to the game last year.

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New skipper Matt Hodgson primed to lead Western Force

25/01/2013

Justin Chadwick, AAP

WESTERN Force coach Michael Foley is confident new skipper Matt Hodgson and his army of lieutenants will be able to fill the leadership void left by Nathan Sharpe and David Pocock.

Champion lock Sharpe, who captained the Force during their first six years, retired at the end of last season after notching a record 162 Super Rugby appearances.

The Force were dealt a further blow when last year’s skipper Pocock defected to the Brumbies.

Sharpe and Pocock have been the heartbeat of the Force since the franchise’s inception in 2006, but Foley said Hodgson was well placed to take on the skipper’s role.

And the 31-year-old flanker will receive help in the leadership department from a big group of players eager to guide the Force to a successful future.

Toby Lynn, Pek Cowan and Sam Wykes are among the players who have stepped up their leadership duties, while Pat Dellit, Richard Brown and 20-year-old flyhalf Kyle Godwin are others who will be entrusted with keeping standards high.

“It could easily be seen to be a lot of chiefs and not a lot of Indians,” Foley said.

“But what we do have is one captain, and everyone else just takes care of business and keeps each other accountable to the highest standards.”

Foley said selflessness and honesty were two of Hodgson’s greatest attributes.

“Those two things together just give him enormous respect within the team,” Foley said.

“We’re very fortunate to have him leading us.”

Foley has spoken to Sharpe regularly in recent months and predicted the Wallabies great would return to the Force at some point to help out.

“We don’t have a long history, but we have some extremely supportive ex-players,” Foley said.

“David Pusey is a guy who is doing a lot behind the scenes. Scott Staniforth is another one.

“A lot of other provincial teams in Australia have ex-players who like to stand at a distance and take pot shots. We’ve got very supportive ex-players.

“I think Sharpey undoubtedly will fall into that group of guys that will be supportive in different ways.”

The new-look Force will get their first taste of action together when they take on the Brumbies in Darwin on February 1, before returning to WA to take on a Tongan Select XV in Mandurah on February 8.

Matt Hodgson & Michael Foley named as Captain & Coach Western Force

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Foley makes early mark at Force

04/02/2013

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

Western Force coach Michael Foley produced a couple of surprises in his new-look back line in the 20-18 pre-season trial loss to the ACT Brumbies in Darwin on Friday.

Foley, in his first game at the helm, played centre-winger Will Tupou at full-back and shifted Paddy Dellit, who had played only full-back or outside centre for the Force, to one wing and Alfie Mafi, who had an outstanding season last year at No.15, to the other.

He also brought Australian Junior World Cup fly-half Kyle Godwin off the bench and into inside centre, effectively giving his side two playmakers.

The rest of the starting back line was made up of new faces – scrum-half Alby Mathewson, fly-half Sias Ebersohn and centres Jayden Hayward and Chris Tuatara-Morrison.

Tupou’s 2012 season was disrupted by injury, and Foley had spoken to him about changing roles.

“Will is a good all-round footballer,” Foley said.

“He has physical abilities, he is good under the high ball, he has a good kicking game and the ability to beat players with a good swerve. We talked about playing him in a different role and it could suit him.”

It was not unexpected that, with 13 new faces in the trial squad, the Force did not click early in the game.

“The first 20 minutes was pretty rusty,” Foley said.

“Some combinations in attack and defence were down and when you are working with new systems it only takes one person to be out of sync and it can break down.

“The longer it went on we took more control. If we had played in the first quarter the way we played in the last 50, we would have been ecstatic.”

By the 50-minute mark Foley had changed his starting forward pack of front row Salesi Ma’afu, Nathan Charles and Pek Cowan, second-rowers Toby Lynn and Hugh McMeniman and back three Matt Hodgson, Richard Brown and Ben McCalman. No starting player stayed on for the full 80 minutes.

Captain Hodgson was happy with the performance.

“Apart from that early period we were happy with our combinations,” he said. “We are a long way ahead of this time last year.”

Ebersohn opened the scoring with an early penalty. The Brumbies hit back with a try to Matt Toomua, converted by Christian Lealiifano, who extended the lead with a penalty before former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone marked his return to rugby with a converted try.

McMeniman crashed over and Ebersohn converted, before Lealiifano added another three-pointer for a 20-10 half-time lead.

Godwin opened the scoring in the second half with a penalty and Junior Rasolea touched down in the corner, unconverted, before a last-ditch Godwin penalty attempt slipped past the post after the siren.

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Western Force starts afresh with trial

01/02/2013

The Australian

THE Western Force is keen to erase memories of a poor 2012 with a solid showing in its first trial match of the season against the Brumbies at Rugby Park in Darwin tonight.

The Force finished last in the Australian conference with just three wins, marking another year it was well out of finals reckoning.

There’s no indication things will get any easier for the franchise entering its eighth year in Super Rugby, with the loss of outstanding flanker David Pocock to the Brumbies and the retirement of Wallabies stalwart Nathan Sharpe hardly helping the cause.

But new Force captain Matt Hodgson says the squad, which contains 11 new faces including ex-Waratah Sam Norton-Knight and towering former Reds lock Hugh McMeniman, is only looking ahead.

“It is a new leaf for us,” Hodgson said in Darwin.

“We started fresh when we all came together early in the pre-season so we sort of wiped what we could from last year out of our memories and we are starting afresh.”

“We are trying a lot of things, different combinations.”

The match marks an early initiation for Pocock, a foundation player with the Force.

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said he expected the outstanding No 7 to come in for a bit of stick from his former teammates.

“I’ll say he’ll probably get a little niggle but, a guy with his experience, he’s probably been targeted a lot before,” Mowen said.

He said most of the squad would play about 40 minutes each because of the high humidity of the Top End.

Former Wallaby winger Clyde Rathbone is also expected to start in his first match back since his 2009 retirement.

Rathbone was capped 49 times for the Brumbies and 26 times for Australia before a series of injuries curtailed the outside back’s career.

The South African-born Rathbone battled with weight gain and depression for several years before getting fit and announcing a return to the game last year.

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New look Western Force to face Brumbies in Darwin

29/01/2013

http://www.rugbyweek.com/news/article.asp?id=37521

The Western Force have named a 31-man squad for their first Super Rugby trial match match against the Brumbies on Friday with thirteen players set to make their debut for the franchise in Darwin.

The Western Australian province will run out an overhauled backline that includes former All Black Alby Mathewson, ex-‘Baby Bok’ Sias Ebersohn, Waikato pivot Sam Christie, the Australian Sevens pair of Junior Rasolea and Ed Stubbs, former Hurricanes midfielder Jayden Hayward and Shute Shield stars Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Mick Snowden and Corey Brown.

Captain Matt Hodgson will lead out a familiar Force forward pack featuring six Wallaby representatives, including off-season recruit Hugh McMeniman. The forward pack also includes former Waratahs flanker Chris Alcock, NSW Country representative Rory Walton and ex-Melbourne Rebels rake Heath Tessmann.

Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley says the Friday’s match is another key step in relaunching the side when they contest the “Territories Cup”.

“This match is important as it gives us a clear starting point from which to begin building towards our season,” he said.

“I’ve been really impressed with the way our guys have approached the pre-season and maintained their standards throughout. We’ve introduced and worked on a new brand of Force rugby, the guys have completely bought into that, and Friday provides a first opportunity to test ourselves against a Super Rugby opposition.

“The influx of players we’ve had for this season has been well documented and this match provides a chance for this new squad to come together and play alongside one another for the first time.

“It’s important that we use these trials to build towards our first match of the season against the Rebels, and continue to build and develop beyond that as the season progresses.

“This pre-season’s been extremely productive for us and after four months of training and these players are hungry for their opportunity.”

The Western Force will fly out for Darwin on Thursday.

Western Force 31-man squad:

Chris Alcock*, Phoenix Battye, Corey Brown (Wider Training Group)*, Richard Brown, Nathan Charles, Sam Christie*, Angus Cottrell, Pek Cowan, Patrick Dellit, Sias Ebersohn*, Tetera Faulkner, Kyle Godwin, Jayden Hayward*, Matt Hodgson (c), Kieran Longbottom, Toby Lynn, Salesi Ma’afu, Alfie Mafi, Alby Mathewson*, Locky McCaffrey, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman*, Junior Rasolea*, Mick Snowden*, Winston Stanley, Ed Stubbs*, Heath Tessmann*, Chris Tuatara-Morrison*, Will Tupou, Rory Walton*, Sam Wykes.

*denotes first appearance for Western Force

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Force family lift the bar

22/12/2012

NICK TAYLOR, The West Australian

Western Force players are literally sleeping and eating on the job as part of their tough, new pre-season training regime.

From the time they sit down for breakfast at 7.30am through their morning sessions, lunch, rest and sleep, afternoon training and recovery, the squad remains together.

In past pre-seasons players would skip breakfast before training and drift away for lunch.

Some took off for home if they lived nearby while others went to local cafes before fronting up for their afternoon work.

Not any longer.

New coach Michael Foley’s overhaul has brought a more professional environment and a program heavily weighted to specific rugby sessions in the battle to gain the edge that will bring results.

He has lifted the bar and left nothing to chance.

Caterers bring in specially prepared meals to the dining room at Force RugbyHQ at Floreat and beds have been set up in a sleep room for players who like a nap between training sessions.

Others relax with a book, watch TV, carry out their game and training reviews, have a massage or a stretching session – but no one leaves.

It is all designed to make sure they hit their afternoon sessions with as much intensity as their morning ones.

And any player who doesn’t front up on time is not going to be particularly popular with his teammates because the whole squad is likely to be hit with an extra early morning session or something similarly distasteful.

There can be no complaints.

The new ground rules were set by their standards group of captain Matt Hodgson, fellow forwards Sam Wykes, Toby Lynn and Pek Cowan and backs Kyle Godwin and Patrick Dellit.

Foundation player Hodgson likened the camaraderie to that of the early days at the Force when the squad was brought together from around the world and players knew few people outside their own circle.

“It’s similar to when we first started and we all moved over here,” Hodgson said.

“We had no one else to rely on except ourselves. We’ve gone back to that closeness as a group.

“It has brought a tightness to the group that is only generally found on tour.

“From week one we’ve been tight, spending eight hours a day together, three or four days a week.

“It’s where you get to know your teammates and how they operate best under different stress and different environments.

“We have a lot of new guys so we had to get them into the mix quite early.

“We didn’t want to wait until we were playing to make the connections needed.

“We are creating a new culture, the emphasis being that we’re not a team full of rock stars, we’re just a team of blokes who respect each other.

“If we can do it off the field we can do it on the field.”

Under the program, players have already run an average of 160km since training began – 40km more than pre-Christmas last year – but much more has been with ball in hand.

There have been 65 rugby-specific sessions compared to 25 last year and soft- tissue injuries have been cut by two-thirds.

Hodgson said the new program had brought a higher level of professionalism and intensity.

“I know people who used to skip breakfast before training. Now it’s compulsory to be here for breakfast and lunch. It means we know everyone is getting the proper nutritional supplements,” he said.

“We do everything as a group.

“It’s helpful for some of the younger blokes who might find it hard to find the right balance between training, proper meals and recovery, particularly at this time of year when you are putting so many kilometres in the legs and so much work in the gym.”

As captain, Hodgson sat down with the coaching team and other staff and discussed the new model.

“We talked about what had worked and what didn’t work in the past,” he said.

“In past seasons hardly a ball was touched prior to Christmas.

“Now nearly everything is done with ball in hand.

“We’ve gone away from training as athletes last year to training as rugby players this year.

“Eighty per cent is rugby-based with ball in hand and the boys are buying into it because it’s a lot more enjoyable.

“Last year, we were running and doing weights and more running and more weights until Christmas.

“This year, it has been rugby specific from the start with fitness added into it.

“It is specific to what we do at the weekend and tailored to the individual needs of different players in their positions.

“Our rugby-based fitness has increased dramatically.”

Head of athletic performance David Joyce has a wealth of experience, including working at English Premier rugby club Saracens, leading soccer clubs Galatasaray and Blackburn Rovers, for the British Olympic team and most recently the Chinese Olympic squad.

He was the first foreigner to work with the Chinese Olympians.

Much of the new regime is a reflection of the skills-intensive model used by the Chinese, but Joyce and his team have also set out to make the Force fitter and faster.

“Our remit as a performance team is to provide the coaches with a fit and robust athlete, but we provide as many hours as possible for skills,” he said.

“This is by far the best pre-season the Force have had even though it is the hardest.

“The training volumes we are getting into them are the best the club has seen and while we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, things are working.

“Things like aerobic capacity being the marker of success are red herrings. It is a flawed model. It’s not aerobic capacity that is the difference between a team winning the competition and finishing last.

“It is playing good rugby that wins the competition. Training well and training hard produces the capacity.

“We haven’t gone about chasing markers and personal bests.

“We tested players the other day and all markers were good. That has come from the training now in place.”

Matt Hodgson Western Force Gym Session

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Santos National Indigenous Under 16 Championship

8/10/2012
By ARU Media Unit

The 2012 Santos National Indigenous Under 16 Championship starts today at Palm Beach Currumbin Rugby Union Club on the Gold Coast. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players from state, territory and affiliate representative teams will come together to compete in the national residential Championship which runs until next Monday.

Former Wallabies Gary Ella and Lloyd McDermott will visit the Championship across the weekend. Newly appointed 2013 Western Force Captain, former Qantas Wallabies forward and product of the Lloyd McDermott Rugby programme, Matt Hodgson will also be making an appearance.

The Championship features six teams; Northern NSW, Southern QLD, Southern NSW/ACT, Combined States, Northern Territory, Northern QLD in a round robin format.

Each team will play each other in six 30-minute matches over Saturday and Sunday with the winner of the Championship to be decided on Monday.

The Championship is an important element of the Player Pathway at National, Provincial, Regional and Affiliate levels conducted by The Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team (LMDRT), who provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth with a future through the game of Rugby.

The LMDRT work in partnership with the ARU in assembling Indigenous Rugby teams to the National Under 16 Championship, making it an effective platform for identifying and developing young Rugby talent and expanding participation across Australia.

CEO of the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, Tom Evans, said he was excited by the prospect of watching the future of Australia’s indigenous Rugby players go head-to-head.

“I always get a thrill when these Championships roll around every year because it allows us to highlight the amount of indigenous talent that is coming through the Rugby ranks,” Mr Evans said.

“It is also exciting to think that we are providing an opportunity for these players to participate in a professionally run tournament.

“I have no doubts that there are some future Qantas Wallabies amongst the players that will be competing over the coming days and I encourage fans to get down and check the next generation of stars.”

Matt Hodgson U16 Lloyd McDermott Foundation 2012

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Emirates Western Force draw released for 2013 Recruit best in search for Success

By RugbyWA Media

The Emirates Western Force has recruited a world-class panel of preeminent experts to form its coaching staff for the 2013 Super Rugby season.

Former Bath Rugby European Challenge Cup-winning Head Coach Steve Meehan and former Queensland Reds strategist Phillip Fowler will link with the Perth-based side for 2013.

The pair joins Head Coach Michael Foley and Forwards Coach Nick Stiles as the brains trust for the Western Australian province. Former NSW Waratahs General Manager Rugby and Wallabies Assistant Manager Chris Webb will also join the Emirates Western Force to oversee the province’s entire professional program as General Manager High Performance.

Foley says the new coaching staff will help kick-start a new era for the Emirates Western Force.

“Relaunching this side is more than just a new playing roster, it’s about a new approach to Emirates Western Force rugby,” he said.

“We didn’t want to restrict ourselves in terms of who we were approaching and targeting, and have intentionally identified experts with a proven record in getting results.

“We’ve engaged some of the best in the business to join us for 2013. We’ve drawn a line in the sand for this season and, given we’ll run out a new-look side, it was essential that we assembled a coaching staff that would not only provide insight into the game but will assist to develop our players and the group as a whole.

“We said that we were going to recruit the best attack coach available and that’s exactly what we’ve done. With our focus on attacking and dynamic rugby, we’re fortunate to bring in someone with the experience and expertise of Steve [Meehan]. His record at Stade Français and Bath speaks for itself; he was able to implement a game style that players loved playing, that fans loved watching and that ultimately brought success. We have a similar goal for the side in 2013.

“Chook [Fowler] was one of the masterminds behind the Reds success over the past few years as well as being sought out by the Wallabies, All Blacks and Springboks across four World Cups. He brings a great deal to the table not only through his strategic approach to rugby, but also being able to guide the players through the psychological aspects of the game as well.

“Finally, there aren’t too many managers in rugby with the experience and knowledge that Chris has. Chris will play a vital role in providing a holistic and integrated approach to our rugby program that encompasses the entire RugbyWA organisation and WA rugby community. He’s one of the best in the game and it’s reassuring to know that every aspect of the High Performance Department will operate like clockwork under him, allowing us to focus on creating the change necessary to bring success.

“There’s no doubt that we’re all on the same page in not only wanting to implement change to build a winning culture for the Emirates Western Force but ensuring that we put systems and a culture in place that can sustain the long-term success of the side.”

RugbyWA Chairman Russel Perry says this is part of a ‘wall of change’ for the Emirates Western Force.

“This is a time of significant change for the club,” he said. “We know our final standing over the past few seasons has been unacceptable and significant actions were required to see us become a force in this competition.

“In investing in this new coaching and management staff, we are looking towards the development, improvement and extended success of the Emirates Western Force.

“Michael has a clear plan for the development of this side over the next three years. The appointment of a first-rate coaching group, combined with a new playing roster for 2013, is part of a continuous improvement approach across the board for the club. This is a significant component of creating an exciting new era for the Emirates Western Force.

“We will be announcing further changes over the next several weeks that will give our members and supporters confidence about the future.”

Steve Meehan joins the Emirates Western Force as Backs/Attack Coach, having spent five seasons in charge of English Premiership club, Bath. Under his reign, Bath was widely acknowledged as having the best integrated attack in the English Premiership, courtesy of their expansive, offloading, attacking rugby, leading to their undefeated European Challenge Cup campaign in 2007/08 that culminated in their 24-16 win over Worcester in the final.

While Bath finished ninth and scored just 38 tries in the season prior to Meehan’s appointment (2006/07), he developed the side into a regular English Premiership finals contender – finishing in the top four on three occasions – and averaging 48 tries per season across his five-year tenure.

Meehan began his coaching career in Queensland before spending three successful seasons as Assistant Coach with Stade Français. During this time the Parisian club reached the final of the French Championship for three consecutive years, beating Toulouse (32-18) in 2002/03 and Perpignan (38-20) in 2003/04, while losing to Biarritz Olympique (37-34) in extra time during the 2004/05. Stade Français also finished runner-up to Toulouse (18-12) in the 2005 Heineken Cup final.

Phillip Fowler – acknowledged as one of the brilliant rugby minds – was a key contributor to the resurgence of the Queensland Reds, with his input towards devising game plans a key component to the Reds’ Super Rugby title in 2011.

The New Zealand-born strategist has played a role in four Rugby World Cup campaigns, with the respective sides qualifying for the final on each occasion. These have included positions with the Wallabies (1991) and South Africa (2007) in their successful Rugby World Cup campaigns, and New Zealand and Australia when they finished runners-up in 1995 and 2003 respectively.

While he joins the Emirates Western Force as a Rugby Strategist, he is also a registered psychologist and has utilised these skills around mental skill development and psychological pressure. Most recently this included assisting Reds flyhalf Mike Harris to break a Super Rugby goal-kicking record, on his way to 24 consecutive goals.

Profiles

Michael Foley

Name: Michael Foley

Role: Head Coach
Previous Coaching Roles: 2012 Head Coach – NSW Waratahs, 2009-2011 Assistant Coach – NSW Waratahs, 2006-2008 Assistant Coach – Wallabies, 2001-2006 Forwards Coach – Bath

 

 

Steve Meehan

 

 

Name: Steve Meehan
Role: Backs/Attack Coach
Previous Coaching Roles: 2006-2011 Head Coach – Bath Rugby, 2006 Backs Coach – Bath Rugby, 2002-2005 Assistant Coach (Backs & Skills) – Stade Français, 1999 Head Coach – Brisbane Cyclone, Backs Coach – Combined States Under 19

 

Nick Stiles

 

Name: Nick Stiles
Role: Forwards Coach
Previous Coaching Roles: 2007-2010 Forwards Coach – Kubota Spears, 2005-2006 Coaching Consultant – Kubota Spears, 2005-2007 Director of Rugby – University of Queensland

 

 

Chook Fowler

Name: Phillip Fowler
Role: Rugby Strategist
Previous Coaching Roles: 2011-2012 Strategy & Kicking Coach – Queensland Reds, 2010 Technical Advisor – Stade Français, 2007-2008 Strategist & Psychologist – Queensland Reds, 2007 Technical Consultant – Springboks, 2005-2006 Strategist/Kicking Coach/Psychologist – NSW Waratahs, 1991 & 2003 Strategic Advisor – Wallabies, 1992-1995 Strategic Advisor – All Blacks

 

 

 

Chris Webb

 

Name: Chris Webb
Role: General Manager High Performance
Previous Roles: 2011-2012 General Manager Rugby – NSW Waratahs, 2008-2010 Team Manager – NSW Waratahs, 2005-2009 Assistant Manager – Wallabies

 

http://www.rugbywa.com.au/NewsEvents/NewsArticles/tabid/905/ArticleID/7834/Default.aspx

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Emirates Western Force draw released for 2013

By RugbyWA Media
Force Group Photo 2013 Preseason

The Emirates Western Force will kick off the 2013 season against the Rebels before becoming the first team to take on the incoming Southern Kings in Super Rugby, when they meet in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, 23 February.

The Southern Kings – who represent South Africa’s Eastern Cape province – are the newcomers to the 2013 Super Rugby competition, replacing the Johannesburg-based Lions, who were relegated at the completion of the 2012 tournament.

According to the 2013 Super Rugby draw released today, the Emirates Western Force will play their first four matches on the road to allow for the completion of the new eastern and southern stands at a revamped nib Stadium.

These ‘away’ fixtures include the competition’s season opener against the Rebels in Melbourne before heading to South Africa for the historic clash against the Kings and a high veldt match-up with the Bulls. The Emirates Western Force then returns to Australia for a showdown in Brisbane with the Reds before the new-look nib Stadium is unveiled to ‘the Sea of Blue’ on Saturday, 23 March when the Force tackles the Cheetahs.

The match against the Free State side is the first of eight home fixtures for the Emirates Western Force in their final 12 games.

In addition to hosting the four Australian sides, the Emirates Western Force will also take on 2012 semi-finalists, the Sharks; the resurgent Highlanders; and a blockbuster against star-studded perennial Super Rugby contenders, the Crusaders.

The West Australians will complete the regular season by hosting the Brumbies, featuring former Force captain David Pocock.

The Emirates Western Force suite of home matches include one home Friday night fixture, six on Saturday night and one on Sunday afternoon, following on from the success of this year’s ‘Superhero Sunday’ that coincided with the clash against the Rebels.

The Emirates Western Force will not have matches at home over the Easter (Friday, 29 March to Monday, 1 April) and
Foundation Day (Monday, 3 June) long weekends.

RugbyWA CEO Vern Reid says the draw delivers many highlights for Emirates Western Force supporters.

“We’re very excited about what the draw has provided us for next season, particularly with regard to our eight home matches,” he said.

“We’re grateful to SANZAR for allowing the side to spend the first five weeks away, and it’ll be a tremendous homecoming when we return to a new-look stadium on March 23. The new stands will provide our members and fans with a much-improved spectator experience, and we’ll be looking for our supporters to help our side in making nib Stadium a tough venue for visiting teams next year.

“We’re looking forward to the return of the Crusaders to Perth; we’ve filled the past two home matches against them and – given where they finished last season and the promise of the Force in 2013 – we’re confident of another sell-out next year.

“We’re thrilled to be playing in the season opener against the Rebels, honoured to be a part of the Kings’ introduction to Super Rugby, and keen to finish the season well in front of our passionate and loyal supporters.

“[Emirates Western Force coach] Michael Foley has referred to the relaunch of the side next season, and the new stadium and exciting draw will further contribute to kicking off an era for the Emirates Western Force that our members and supporters should be very enthusiastic about.”

The Australian Conference teams will be the only teams playing in Round 1 of the competition with four of the teams in action, with the same to occur in Round 17 before the Super Rugby season ‘breaks’ for the June inbound Tests, featuring the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia.

The four-week Test window allows for Australian provinces and the Wallabies to face the Lions in their nine-match visit, beginning with the tour opener against the Emirates Western Force in Perth on Wednesday, 5 June. This match will be held at increased capacity of Patersons Stadium to allow for the influx of touring British & Irish Lions supporters, with more than 11,000 converging on Perth when the side last toured in 2001.

Rounds 18 and 19 (post-break) will feature only New Zealand and South African Conference teams. 

2013 Emirates Western Force Draw
Round
Day & Date
Match
Venue
Time (local)
1
Friday, 15 February
Rebels v Emirates Western Force
Melbourne
19.40
2
Saturday, 23 February
Kings v Emirates Western Force
Port Elizabeth
19.10
3
Saturday, 2 March
Bulls v Emirates Western Force
Pretoria
17.05
4
BYE
5
Saturday, 16 March
Reds v Emirates Western Force
Brisbane
18.40
6
Saturday, 23 March
Emirates Western Force v Cheetahs
nib Stadium, Perth
18.40
7
Sunday, 31 March
Waratahs v Emirates Western Force
Sydney
16.05
8
Saturday, 6 April
Emirates Western Force v Rebels
nib Stadium, Perth
16.40
9
Saturday, 13 April
Emirates Western Force v Crusaders
nib Stadium, Perth
19.40
10
Friday, 19 April
Hurricanes v Emirates Western Force
TBC
19.35
11
Saturday, 27 April
Brumbies v Emirates Western Force
Canberra
19.40
12
Saturday, 4 May
Emirates Western Force v Reds
nib Stadium, Perth
17.40
13
Friday, 10 May
Chiefs v Emirates Western Force
TBC
19.35
14
Friday, 17 May
Emirates Western Force v Sharks
nib Stadium, Perth
19.40
15
Saturday, 25 May
Emirates Western Force v Highlanders
nib Stadium, Perth
17.40
16
BYE
17
Sunday, 9 June
Emirates Western Force v Waratahs
nib Stadium, Perth
14.05
20
Saturday, 13 July
Emirates Western Force v Brumbies
nib Stadium, Perth
19.40
 
Tour Match
Wednesday, 5 June
Emirates Western Force v British & Irish Lions
Patersons Stadium, Perth
TBC

http://www.rugbywa.com.au/NewsEvents/NewsArticles/tabid/905/ArticleID/7720/Default.aspx

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Hodgson named Western Force captain

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

August 2, 2012, 8:54 am

Western Force and Wallabies flanker Matt Hodgson was today made club captain under new coach Michael Foley and is expected to be appointed team captain to lead the side next season.

Hodgson, a foundation player who has made 83 appearances for the club, said he was honoured to be leading the club into a new era under Foley who signed from the NSW Waratahs earlier this week.

Hodgson, a two-times Force player of the year award in 2009 and 2010 and three-times winner of the Force Man award in ’06, 07 and 2010, is behind only Nathan Sharpe with 92 matches for the Force.

He has been capped six times for the Wallabies and last year won the Rugby Union Players Association Academic Award, recognising his off-field development that has seen him complete a Bachelor of Science, and currently working towards a Masters in Sports Law.

He captained the Force in June in their 42-0 win over the South Australian President’s XV in Adelaide.

“This is a great honour,” he said. “I’ve always thought of myself as being a leader by example but now I have the opportunity to stand in front of these guys and lead them into action.

“I want to still lead by example and that includes everything both on and off the field.

“Everyone’s excited about the new chapter we get to write next year. We have lost a couple of excellent players in David Pocock and Sharpie (Nathan Sharpe) but this playing group will go from strength to strength.

“We’ll focus about us as a team, we’ll have that team mentality and we know that the team is greater than one player and we’ll be stronger for that.

“With the appointment of a new coach and captain, this provides a new direction for the team and everyone’s really excited about that.

All the players are getting right behind this and looking to increase their responsibility within the team.”

Foley said Hodgson was an acknowledged leader within the rugby community.

“Hodgo represents everything good in team sport,” he said. “He’s a selfless supporter, he’s someone who gives 100 per cent every week and he displays all the qualities we hope to build into the squad over the next year or so.”

Meanwhile, former Western Force assistant foundation coach John Mulvihill is set to return to the club.

The move comes just days after Michael Foley joined the Force as director of coaching from the NSW Waratahs for three years.

Mulvihill, currently coaching with Japanese club Mitsubishi Dynaboars, had originally applied for the top position.

He will also take responsibility for the backs, a position he held previously at the Force under John Mitchell.

Under him, the Force scored more tries than at any other time in its seven-year history.

He has a long association with Foley going back to their playing days.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/14436825/mulvihill-named-new-western-force-head-coach/

Matt Hodgson in Western Force Gym

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Emirates Force name Matt Hodgson as their new captain as Michael Foley unveiled as head coach

Matt Hodgson & Michael Foley named as Captain & Coach Western Force

Force name Matt Hodgson as their new captain as Michael Foley unveiled as head coach

by: Dale Granger From: PerthNow

August 02, 2012 8:18pm

UPDATED: MICHAELl Foley was unveiled as Western Force head coach without a title today, the departing Waratahs coach assuming director of rugby-type powers at the Perth club who announced Matt Hodgson as replacement captain for Brumbies-bound David Pocock.

Foley, who has signed a three-year contract with the Force, would not be drawn on any targets set for the underachieving club, beyond promising fans that they would deliver an exciting style of play.

“I think the important thing in the first year of footie is that the players are excited about playing. From that results tend to take care of themselves. It is important we allow players to express themselves on the field and over the course of the next two to three years, endeavour to make the finals,” he said of the mission statement.

Foley’s immediate task will be the appointment of a coaching team subscribing to the philosophy of an attack-minded senior coach striving for an expansive game.

“We don’t want to limit ourselves by structure. We will go to the marketplace and look for someone with a proven track record and based on what we can get, we will develop a coaching team around that,” said Foley.

Foley did confirm even though his position was synonymous with a Director of Rugby role, he would be ultimately responsible for results as well as the recruitment and retention of players, an area in which the Force has fared dismally in recent years.

Foley’s sudden exit from the Waratahs, where he had two years of his contract still to run, emerged amid reports of players dissatisfaction at the Sydney club over the continuing on-off saga surrounding Foley’s future.

The Waratahs finished 11th on the Super 15 ladder, three places higher than the Western Force, after losing their last eight games.

Foley said it had been “very hard leaving the team you loved coaching (Waratahs)”. He said he had spoken to some players face to face and others in small groups to inform them of his departure.

Foley revealed that the initial overtures to join the Force had been made in mid-season by a senior player of the Perth club.

“One of the players I know well spoke to me during the season, around the time of the Tahs review (into Foley’s performance). The thought grew from there in my mind over what my role was and the players I would work with. Weighing it up in the end, I decided it was the right thing for myself and my family,” said Foley of the motivation to cross the Nullarbor.

He declined to name the player who had approached him, but it has been reliably learned that former captain Nathan Sharpe, a close friend of Foley, played a key role luring Foley to Western Australia.

After his final Perth game in Force colours in June, Sharpe was evasive about contacting Foley or his role in the appointment of the new coach.

At the time the Force denied approaching any Waratahs coaches or officials about a move to Perth.

Despite criticism over the lengthy time of four and a half months to find a replacement for Richard Graham, Force chief executive Vern Reid said the club had met its timeline of appointing a coach by the end of the season.

Hodgson said he was excited about Foley coming onboard and the new dynamic at the club.

“Changing the way we play and getting an attacking mindset and enjoyment back into the game, as a playing group we are looking forward to relaunching into the marketplace again starting in the preseason from scratch and competing and fighting hard for starting spots,” said Hodgson.

Prior to today’s press conference, recently retired Springbok winning World Cup, Tri-Nations and Super 15 lock Victor Matfield was spotted arriving at the Force’s Floreat headquarters.

Matfield played his last game in South Africa’s defeat by the Wallabies in last year’s World Cup quarterfinal and is regarded as one of the best second rowers of all time.

He turned down an offer to coach the Springbok lineout this year and has subsequently been working as a television commentator.

A Force spokesman said Matfield had visited the club on a “non-rugby related matter.”

http://www.news.com.au/sport/rugby-gold/hodgson-named-force-skipper/story-fndpt9s1-1226441692725

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Member of the Emirates Western Force pour their hearts out on camera as they prepare to farewell teammate and rugby legend Nathan Sharpe at nib Stadium against the Brumbies on Saturday, 30 June 2012.

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ARU needs to relax rules governing number of foreign imports allowed to Super Rugby franchises

Jamie Pandaram, The Daily Telegraph
June 26, 2012

The dilapidated state of Western Force makes it clear that Australia does not have enough talent to sustain five competitive teams in Super Rugby.

Melbourne Rebels are allowed 10 international imports but have raided rival provinces to poach James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Scott Higginbotham in the past 18 months.

Their unused foreign import spots should surely be given to the franchises affected by local talent losses.

It is surprising to learn that none of the franchises have officially made this request to the ARU.

While the Rebels’ foreign player quota will decrease over the coming years, it is of no consolation to the remaining Australian teams who can hire just one marquee international, and one emerging overseas player who could represent the Wallabies after a three-year residency.

The side the Force will put out next year – particularly if skipper David Pocock joins the Brumbies – will be little better than a Shute Shield outfit.

Wallabies and Force backrower Matt Hodgson was recently moved to write: “The environment in WA is unique within Australian rugby, and the standard approach employed by the ARU is not conducive to the success of this franchise.

“Additional mature-aged foreign players would do wonders for the performances and development of all players within the club. Five strong franchises are surely what is best for Australian rugby . . . recruitment concessions for the Force need to be considered to assist the club.”

The other key to strengthening Australian rugby is to fix the problems at New South Wales Waratahs.

Coach Michael Foley’s position will be assessed by the board this week, and they should persist with him.

But the Waratahs should consider a showman who can assume a more public role and sell the team to the grumbling market.

The GWS Giants have successfully used Kevin Sheedy to sell the new AFL club to the masses while Mark Williams handles much of the coaching of the side.

NSW rugby has a Williams; they need a Sheedy.

http://www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/super-rugby/aru-needs-to-relax-rules-governing-number-of-foreign-imports-allowed-to-super-rugby-franchises/story-e6frf4qu-1226408581123

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Western Force look for a successful Nathan Sharpe farewell

Dale Granger, The Sunday Times
June 24, 2012

THE Western Force is plotting an ambush for Australian Conference leader the Brumbies in Nathan Sharpe’s final Super 15 game in Perth next Saturday.

Sharpe’s teammates say victory is non-negotiable after a disappointing season.

Already the highest-capped player in Super Rugby history, and the third most-capped Wallaby with 104 Tests, the clash against the Brumbies will be the inspirational Sharpe’s 160th in a last hurrah with his comrades determined to give him a fitting sendoff.

Prop Salesi Maafu summed up the feeling in the Force camp ahead of the game.

“There’s no doubt there’s a lot to play for on Saturday night, but Sharpie would say it himself: the most important thing is winning the game,” Maafu said.

“When you add his 150-odd Super Rugby caps and 100-plus Test matches, when he says something, the guys take it on board. There’ll never be another Nathan Sharpe and the game is losing a player of a very high calibre, particularly around lineouts.

“I know in my time of playing I’ve never learnt so much in such a short time as I have playing with him and it’s going to be a big loss for Australian rugby.”

In many ways, the club owes as much to Sharpe’s sons Cooper, 5, and Franklin, 3 who have had to “loan” their dad to rugby.

Wallaby and Force captain David Pocock said the club appreciated the sacrifices Sharpe had made. “You can’t help but admire Sharpie for all that he’s achieved throughout his career: his longevity, the number of games he’s played, the success he’s had,” Pocock said. “But I’ve also had the privilege of getting to know Sharpie the man, the good friend and the loving father.

“The sacrifice his boys have made to the club in terms of giving up their father while he’s been away on rugby duty and we travel more than any other team in the competition might not be seen by the public, but it’s something his teammates have always appreciated.”

Another teammate, Matt Hodgson, said Sharpe was probably the “greatest player who’ll ever play for the Force”.

“Having him as skipper for the first six years here was a great introduction to Super Rugby for me,” Hodgson said. “He was excellent at instilling confidence in the side and the players initially and, for me, being a young guy in a new town, he did whatever he could to make that transition very easy for me.

“But probably the biggest thing I’ve taken from Sharpie is that every home game we walk into the sheds and he’ll put his jersey on and he’ll tuck it into his Skins.

“He always seems to wear his Skins around his bellybutton. Unfortunately that’s something that will live with me forever.”

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/rugby-gold/western-force-looks-for-a-fitting-ending-in-nathan-sharpe-farewell/story-fnbzp4s0-1226406497024

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Force cruise home over SA President’s men

RugbyWA Media

June 22, 2012

The Emirates Western Force have wrapped up their preparations for their FxPro Super Rugby return with a comfortable 42-0 win over a South Australian Rugby President’s XV at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium tonight.

Following their three-week tournament lay-off courtesy of the inbound Test season, the Emirates Western Force returned to the pitch with a six-tries-to-nil win over a South Australian side featuring members from the Adelaide club competition and marquee representatives from Victoria, NSW, WA and the ACT.

While the visitors headed to the break with a commanding 28-0 lead, their second half momentum was stalled by a lack of possession and a raft of penalties against them before two late tries sealed the 42-point result.

Emirates Western Force Skills & Defence Coach Phil Blake was pleased with the performance and said the match achieved everything he had hoped for his side.

“Tonight was good for our combinations looking ahead to next week,” he said. “While the guys have been playing [club] football, they haven’t been playing it together. So being able to play 80 minutes together will hold them in good stead particularly after that second half defensive effort.

“We started very strong and controlled the ball and the game really well. After half time they had a lot of ball and territory and it wasn’t until the last 10 minutes that we got any sort of field position and were able to score a few late tries.”

In spite of the greasy conditions, the West Australians were off to a flying start with wingers Napolioni Nalaga and Nick Cummins each touching down within the first five minutes.

Hooker Nathan Charles extended the Emirates Western Force’s lead when he crashed over from the back of a rolling maul midway through the term before fullback Alfie Mafi crossed under the posts six minutes before half time.

Flyhalf Ben Seymour, who was amongst his side’s best, converted all four first-half tries before his replacement, David Harvey, added the final two conversions to complete his side’s perfect night with the boot.

While the Emirates Western Force dictated terms through the first period, the second stanza was a direct contrast with the President’s XV peppering the visitors’ line for the majority of the half.

The Emirates Western Force’s task was compounded when lock Toby Lynn fell afoul of the referee for repeat infringements on his side’s goal line, however, despite the continued pressure their defensive line remained intact.

After weathering the South Australian barrage, Cottesloe flanker Nick Haining capitalised on his side’s first taste of field position for the half when he dived over with seven minutes remaining, before Cummins shot through for his second touchdown of the night on the back of a pinpoint cut-out pass from scrumhalf Josh Holmes.

The Emirates Western Force will return to FxPro Super Rugby at nib Stadium on Saturday, 30 June for Nathan Sharpe’s home farewell against the Brumbies.

2012 Invitational Game
Friday, 22 June 2012 at Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide
Kick-off: 6.45pm (ACST)

Emirates Western Force 42 (Tries: N Cummins 2; N Nalaga, N Charles, A Mafi, N Haining; Con: B Seymour 4/4, D Harvey 2/2)
South Australian Rugby President’s XV 0

Emirates Western Force: 1.Pek Cowan, 2.Nathan Charles, 3.Salesi Manu, 4.Phoenix Battye, 5.Toby Lynn, 6.Richard Brown, 7.Matt Hodgson (captain), 8.Lachlan McCaffery, 9.Josh Holmes, 10.Ben Seymour, 11.Napolioni Nalaga, 12.Rory Sidey, 13.Will Tupou, 14.Nick Cummins, 15. Alfie Mafi. Res: 16.Elvis Taione, 17.Tetera Faulkner, 18.Jake Ball, 19.Nick Haining, 20.Justin Turner, 21.David Harvey, 22.Winston Stanley

South Australian Rugby President’s XV: 1.Aaron Tawera, 2.Melbourne Lesa, 3.Karl Truijens, 4.Andrew Brown, 5.Tom Murday, 6.Pat Williams, 7.Gary Bautz, 8.Afa Amosa, 9.Tim Duchesne, 10.Jack Macklin, 11.Kery Dyer, 12.Arni Kane, 13.Pat Dellit, 14.Sam Wara, 15.Mark Jackman. Res: 16.Logan Brown, 17.Jim Gentle, 18.James Shearer, 19.Tim Mattin, 20.Rob Harlow, 21.Chris Batlett, 22.Luke Burton

Yellow Cards: Toby Lynn (47th min)
Red Cards: nil
Crowd: 3,500

http://www.rugbywa.com.au/NewsEvents/NewsArticles/tabid/905/ArticleID/6920/Default.aspx

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Futures on the line as Force head interstate

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

June 20, 2012

Western Force players will be out to stake a claim for a place in the last three Super Rugby matches of 2012 when they line up against a South Australian Rugby President’s XV on Friday.

The Force have named a strong squad that includes five Test players, while four Force members will play for the SA side at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium.

Force coach Phil Blake said the match would be used as a test ahead of the side’s return match against the Brumbies at nib Stadium on June 30.

“Our goal, coming out of the June Test window, is to test ourselves against a quality opposition leading into the final three matches of the Super Rugby season,” he said.

“We’ve found that in the South Australian Rugby President’s XV.”

Test flanker Matt Hodgson will captain the side that includes Wallabies Richard Brown, Pek Cowan and Salesi Ma’afu and Fijian international Napolioni Nalaga.

Cottesloe flanker Nick Haining has been rewarded for strong displays in the RugbyWA premier grade with a place on the reserves list. Replacement scrum-half Justin Turner will take another step in his return from a knee injury with his first Force appearance for three months.

The SA side will be bolstered by Force members Tetera Faulkner, Pat Dellit and Samu Wara and academy member Luke Burton, who will combine with local players from the Adelaide club competition and representatives from Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

  • TEAMS *
  • Force *: Pek Cowan, Nathan Charles, Salesi Manu, Phoenix Battye, Toby Lynn, Richard Brown, Matt Hodgson, Lachlan McCaffery, Josh Holmes, Ben Seymour, Napolioni Nalaga, Rory Sidey, Will Tupou, Nick Cummins, Alfie Mafi. *Reserves *: Elvis Taione, Salesi Ma’afu, Jake Ball, Nick Haining, Justin Turner, David Harvey, Winston Stanley.
  • SA President’s XV: *Aaron Tawera, Melbourne Lesa, Karl Truijens, Andrew Brown, Tom Merday, Pat Williams, Gary Bauts, Afa Amosa, Tim Duchesne, Jack Macklin, Kery Dyer, Arni Kane, Pat Dellit, Samu Wara, Ammon Matauato. *Reserves: * Logan Brown, Jim Gentle, James Shearer, Tim Mattin, Rob Harlow, Chris Bartlett, Luke Burton, Tetera Faulkner.
http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/sport/a/-/rugby-union/13988759/futures-on-the-line-as-force-head-interstate/

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Force of the future need ARU help now

Nick Taylor, The West Australian

June 14, 2012

Western Force and Wallabies flanker Matt Hodgson has called for a review and overhaul of the franchise to ensure its future.

The influential foundation player has criticised the Australian Rugby Union’s lack of funding for a local academy, says the club should be allowed to recruit more overseas players and questions how long suffering Force fans will stay loyal without success.

Hodgson, who has made 82 appearances for the Force, second only behind Nathan Sharpe, is also not surprised that captain David Pocock has not recommitted while the club is without a coach.

“I suggest that he could hardly be expected to commit when the coaching position is still not filled,” he said.

If the Force were given strategic concessions, success would come sooner than later, Hodgson said.

“An analysis of the WA situation is needed and something needs to be done to ensure the Force thrives, not just survives,” he said on his website, matthodgson.com.au.

“The environment in WA is unique within Australian rugby and I feel that the standard approach employed by the ARU is not conducive to the success of this franchise.

“WA has limited funding for community development compared to east coast States meaning this is unlikely to change any time soon.

“How are we supposed to grow the game when there is no academy in Perth? Perth does not have the club rugby stocks and structure to draw upon to develop our own players in the numbers that are required.”

Hodgson said extra mature foreign imports would “do wonders” for the performances and development of players at the club.

“I believe that recruitment concessions for the Force, similar to the Melbourne Rebels (allowed 10 overseas players when they started) need to be considered by the ARU to assist the club to develop into a competitive base for rugby.

“To date the Force have enjoyed limited returns for their internationals largely due to injuries, but their potential contribution to the team cannot be underestimated.

“The development of rugby in WA would advance rapidly if the Force was a consistently successful, competitive team.”

Hodgson said recruitment was an on-going challenge.

“I am from the central coast of NSW and having been in Perth for seven years and marrying a local, I feel that this is my home,” he said.

“I can tell any prospective player the positives of the club, lifestyle, loyal fans and the many other benefits to my adopted home however it does not necessarily mitigate the points that I, and others in the media, have made.

“There is support for rugby in Perth to make it viable but membership numbers drop each year, as do the crowd numbers. How long will the loyalty of the Sea of Blue be sustained without success?”

://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/sport/a/-/union/13945140/force-of-the-future-need-aru-help-now/

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Week Team of the week

April 2, 2012

http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/union-news/team-of-the-week-20120401-1w6lk.html

Each week, Greg Growden picks the form team from the Australian conference after the weekend’s matches. Number of times selected in brackets.

15. Dave Harvey (2) (Force)
14. Samu Wara (1)
(Force)
13. Nick Cummins (1)
(Force)
12. Winston Stanley (1) 
(Force)
11. Adam Ashley-Cooper (2)
 (Waratahs)
10. Ben Seymour (1) 
(Force)
9. Brett Sheehan (2) 
(Force)
8. Matt Hodgson (2)
(Force)
7. David Pocock (3) 
(Force)
6. Richard Brown (1)
(Force)
5. Nathan Sharpe (3) 
(Force)
4. Toby Lynn (1)
(Force)
3. Salesi Ma’afu (1) 
(Force)
2. Nathan Charles (2) 
(Force)
1. Pek Cowan (2)
(Force)

Player of the round
Brett Sheehan. Instrumental in one of the Force’s most memorable wins, outplaying Test halfback Will Genia, providing good direction and menace.

Try of the round
Samu Wara. A smart crossfield kick by replacement five-eighth Ben Seymour and a clever regather by the Force winger, who then sprinted upfield, led to a game-breaking try.

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What a satisfying win at home for the Force against the Reds.  Highlights of the game including 5 tries by the Force:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4bpM6R0Fpc

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Question time with Pek Cowan and I before Pek’s 50th Super Cap with the Force:

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The biggest hit on me that I can remember, for your viewing enjoyment:

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http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/union-news/team-of-the-week-20120318-1vdu4.html

Week 4 Team of the week

March 19, 2012

Each week, Greg Growden picks the form team from the Australian conference after the weekend’s matches. Number of times selected in brackets.

15. Dave Harvey (1) (Force)

14. Lachlan Mitchell (1)(Rebels)

13. Mark Gerrard (1)(Rebels)

12. James O’Connor (1)(Rebels)

11. Digby Ioane (2)(Reds)

10. James Stannard (1) (Force)

9.Brett Sheehan (1) (Force)

8. Matt Hodgson (1) (Force)

7. David Pocock (2) (Force)

6. Scott Higginbotham (3)(Reds)

5. Nathan Sharpe (2) (Force)

4. Hugh Pyle (2) (Rebels)

3. Laurie Weeks (2)(Rebels)

2. Nathan Charles (1) (Force)

1. Pek Cowan (1) (Force)

Player of the round Nathan Sharpe. A blockbuster of a game from the Wallabies veteran lock, succeeding in nullifying the Waratahs in so many areas.

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Highlight package:

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Matt Hodgson: David Pocock New Force Captain

NT Times 3/02/2012
Matt Hodgson Darwin

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Working with other WA Sports People: Having fun through Watch This Space Management:

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TWF Tribute to the backrow at the Force.  Thanks for the support guys:

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