Western Force 2016: The Year of Expansive Rugby

Western Force 2016: The Year of Expansive Rugby

For all the talk of 2015 being a year to go ‘back to back’ – building on the  Force’s breakout year of 2014 – the pre-season build-up was as optimistic as it got for the Force last year.

Reviewing 2015

2015 was a year to forget as the Western Force went from hero to zero. They floundered at the bottom of the log with three wins from 16 – the Waratahs (twice) and Rebels. To add insult to injury, the Force had the lowest try tally in the completion: 28 to the Highlanders’ 63.

Noting their try-scoring deficiency, the Force has reaffirmed a commitment to play expansive, running rugby. With the raft of new signings, they certainly have the capacity to do so.

Previewing 2016

The 28-0 and 36-24 wins over the Hurricanes and Asia Pacific Dragons respectively in the pre-season showed glimpses of the Force’s ball-in-hand play. Fixing their toothless attack is the first priority, as is bolstering the set-piece and goal-kicking to name a few.

The set-piece malfunctioned at times in 2015, with an 83.5% lineouts’ success rate and 83.9% scrums’ success rate. It iss certainly not helped by injuries to props Faulkner and Van Wyk and the loss of Wilhelm Steenkamp and Sam Wykes.

Another failing was the place-kicking. At 59.4% kicking success rate, the signings of Peter Grant and Jono Lance could remedy the Force’s goal-kicking woes.

Improvements in such areas mentioned should improve their chances in 2016.

Key Players

Besides the usual suspects – Hodgo, McCalman, Cowan, Charles, Mathewson et al., the following players should be singled out for the likely impact they will make this year.

As the Force’s lineout caller, Adam Coleman has a prime opportunity to impose himself as the first choice Force lock and contest Simmons and Mumm for the title of pre-eminent lineout exponent in Australia.

Rob Simmons and Adam ColemanAdam Coleman challenges Rob Simmons in the air

Dane Haylett Petty could count himself unlucky not to be in the Wallabies mix last year. He will be hoping to marry his defence and kicking with his ever-improving counter-attacking.

Ian Prior is often overlooked for the Nic[k]s on the East Coast in Wallabies’ discussions. That said, he will have to depose Alby as the first-choice scrumhalf and play consistently before coming into the Wallabies’ frame.

Players to Watch

Keep an eye on Guy Millar. A promising tighthead prop who does not look out of place head down in the scrum.

Ben Tapuai – Australia’s forgotten man. I hope Taps forces himself into the starting XV, and ultimately, Wallabies’ reckoning.

Season Predictions

The first three rounds are by no means daunting but Aussie derbies are often unpredictable. A win or two is attainable, or none at all, depending on how cohesive the Reds play in Round 2.

They will hoping to go into their 3-game NZ leg with some momentum, and grab a Kiwi scalp, possibly the Chiefs. The middle stretch of fixtures is deceptively easier. A win against the Bulls, Sunwolves and perhaps the Crusaders is not outside the realm of possibility.

After the second bye, though, I can only see a win coming against the Cheetahs and/or the Stormers. Best case scenario would be at least eight wins.

It will be hard for the Force to not to improve on their 2015 showing. However I see the Force finishing around 12th in the competition.

Players In: Peter Grant (La Rochelle), Jono Lance (Waratahs), Semisi Masirewa (Manawatu), Ben Tapuai (Reds).

Players Out: Nick Cummins (Coca Cola West Red Sparks), Pat Dellit (released), Sias Ebersohn (Cheetahs), Zack Holmes (La Rochelle), Mitchell Scott (Tasman), Wilhelm Steenkamp (Brive), Sam Wykes (Coca Cola West Red Sparks), Akihito Yamada (Sunwolves).

Force Fixture List

Round 1: 27 February v Rebels (nib stadium, Perth)

Round 2: 5 March v Reds (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)

Round 3: 11 March v Brumbies (nib stadium, Perth)

Round 4: 18 March v Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)

Round 5: 26 March v Chiefs (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton)

Round 6: 1 April v Highlanders (Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin)

Round 7: 8 April v Crusaders (nib stadium, Perth)

Round 8: BYE

Round 9: 23 April v Waratahs (nib stadium, Perth)

Round 10: 29 April v Bulls (nib stadium, Perth)

Round 11: 7 May v Sunwolves (Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo)

Round 12: BYE

Round 13: 21 May v Blues (nib stadium, Perth)

Round 14: 29 May v Rebels (AAMI Park, Melbourne)

Round 15: 2 July v Cheetahs (Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein)

Round 16: 9 July v Stormers (nib stadium, Perth)

Round 17: 16 July v Brumbies (GIO Stadium, Canberra)


An affable guy with a passion for rugby union.

More in Rugby