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Super Rugby match preview: Western Force v Waratahs
Western Force have made three changes to their squad ahead of Sunday's Super Rugby clash with rivals Waratahs in Perth.
Forward Hugh McMeniman makes his long-awaited return after nine weeks on the sidelines having fractured his shoulder against the Melbourne Rebels in Round Eight.
The 29-year-old starts at blindside flanker alongside second row Rory Walton who makes his first start in Force colours, while Pek Cowan assumes the captaincy once again with Matt Hodgson reduced to the bench.
Force coach Michael Foley is without regular No 8 Ben McCalman who was called into the Wallabies squad for the British and Irish Lions Test series, paving the way for Angus Cottrell to return to the starting XV.
Foley retains the same backline which saw his side to victory against the Highlanders with the lone exception being Junior Rasolea, who earns the opportunity to stake his claim in the absence of Wallaby squad member Nick Cummins.
Meanwhile the Waratahs are left with a depleted squad after 10 players left the camp on international duty.
With Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu, Rob Horne, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Israel Folau all unavailable coach Michael Cheika has been forced to make wholesale changes.
Waratahs lock Sitaleki Timani remains sidelined with injury leaving Cheika with limited resources heading into a must-win encounter if the New South Wales outfit are to qualify for the Super Rugby play-offs.
In the absence of club captain Dennis, Pat McCutcheon was set to lead the side before being forced to withdraw on Saturday after sustaining a knee injury in training.
Cheika has made an attempt to bolster his squad via the additions of Parramatta lock Adam Coleman, Northern Districts' flanker AJ Gilbert and Randwick duo Richard Aho and Terrence Hepetema.
Western Force:15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Junior Rasolea, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Rory Walton, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan (capt).
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Ed Stubbs, 22 Sam Norton-Knight.
Waratahs: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Tom Kingston, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 AJ Gilbert, 6 Lopeti Timani 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Jeremy Tilse.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Richard Aho, 18 Adam Coleman, 19 Liam Winton, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Ben Volavola, 22 Terrence Hepetema.
What they said...
Western Force head coach Michael Foley
"This week has been a big week for the squad and the organisation and we're looking to finish it well against the Waratahs tomorrow.
"We've continued take big steps as a team this season and it's important that we put together a strong performance leading into the mid-year break."
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