Preview: Force v Hurricanes

David Smith 1582057932
The Hurricanes have dumped games badly to the Reds and Stormers while winning three others on the buzzer, and the Force won two in South Africa but have suffered two one-point losses at home and almost blew a draw at Sydney.

VENUE & TIME: Subiaco Oval, Perth, Friday March 9, 23.45 NZT (19:45 local).

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 11 � Force 0, Hurricanes 1.

LAST TIME: February 18, 2006 (New Plymouth) � Hurricanes 29-5 Force.

WALKING WOUNDED: Ma'a Nonu left the field early with a leg problem and looks likely to play on the wing this week if he plays at all. The Force had to replace Nathan Sharpe at short notice but he returns for this match.

FORM: Last week we suggested the Hurricanes would win because they have showed composure in tight games. Boy, did they ever make us look stupid! Two passes intercepted for tries, half a dozen kicks out on the full or dead, handling errors, missed tackles, insufficient urgency and playing the game an increasingly large distance behind the advantage line meant they were never going to win. Colin Cooper will be hoping they got all the rubbish out of their systems in one go. The Force also let the Waratahs off the hook; in the first 20 minutes after halftime there was only one team in it but carelessness, poor goal-kicking and general inattention to detail let the home side escape with a draw � but for Sam Norton-Knight�s mental implosion, the Waratahs may have taken all the points in a game they did not deserve to win.

WHO'S HOT: Matt Giteau had a decent sort of game at first five-eighths last week, setting the Force up by doing nothing for 40 minutes and then running once to score a vital try. There was plenty of industry from the Force players but not a great deal that was constructive. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, their star turns last week were a centre (Conrad Smith), a wing (David Smith) and a fullback (Cory Jane). Without a little help from their friends, these men cannot win games.

WE THINK: We know � we don't just think this � that we would not be interested in putting any money on this game. Who can tell which version of either team is going to turn up? So we�re going to make a big call and pick a draw � don't laugh, the Force have drawn three of their 18 Rebel Sport Super 14 matches and have already, in 2006, had back-to-back splits. If anyone is a candidate to end the 80 minutes with scores level it's John Mitchell's troops, and three Hurricanes games have been decided on the last play.

TEAMS:

Western Force:1 � Gareth Hardy, 2 � Tai McIsaac, 3 � Troy Takiari, 4 David Pusey, 5 � Nathan Sharpe (captain), 6 � Richard Brown, 7 � David Pocock, 8 � Scott Fava, 9 � Matt Henjak, 10 � Matt Giteau, 11 � Cameron Shepherd, 12 � Junior Pelesasa, 13 � Ryan Cross, 14 � Scott Staniforth, 15 � Drew Mitchell.

Reserves: 16 � Brendan Cannon, 17 � Angus Scott, 18 � Rudi Vedelago, 19 � David Hodgson, 20 � Chris O�Young, 21 � James Hilgendorf, 22 � Digby Ioane.

Hurricanes:1 � John Schwalger, 2 � Tone Kopelani, 3 � Neemia Tialata, 4 � Paul Tito, 5 � Bernie Upton, 6 � Luke Andrews, 7 � Serge Lilo, 8 � Thomas Waldrom, 9 � Alby Mathewson, 10 � Blair Stewart, 11 � David Smith, 12 � Tana Umaga, 13 � Conrad Smith, 14 � Hosea Gear, 15 � Cory Jane.

Reserves: 16 � Mahonri Schwalger, 17 � Anthony Perenise, 18 � Bradley Mika, 19 � Hayden Hopgood, 20 � Chris Smylie, 21 � Jimmy Gopperth, 22 � Ma'a Nonu or Tamati Ellison.

REFEREE: Mark Lawrence
David Smith 1582057932