Mathewson to get first run for Force
Alby Mathewson (Photosport)
By Justin Chadwick
The Western Force will unveil their new-look 9-10 combination in Friday night's Super Rugby trial match against the Brumbies in Darwin.
The Force overhauled their backline following last year's disastrous 3-13 win-loss campaign, but it's the new halves combination that holds the greatest intrigue.
Former All Blacks halfback Alby Mathewson and South African playmaker Sias Ebersohn will be handed starting roles against the Brumbies, with the pair in the box seat to cement their places in the side for the season opener against the Melbourne Rebels on February 15.
New Force coach Michael Foley said the chemistry between Mathewson and Ebersohn has been impressive at training, but he wants to see how it holds up under the heat of battle.
Injured Wallabies scrum-half Brett Sheehan, who is set to miss at least the first four weeks of the season with an ankle injury, will battle Mathewson for the No.9 jersey once he recovers, while Ebersohn will have to fight off the likes of Kyle Godwin, Sam Norton-Knight and Sam Christie for the five-eighth role.
The match against the Brumbies will pit the Force up against their former skipper David Pocock, who left the Perth-based franchise at the end of last season.
"I guess everyone's mates off the field, but when you do battle on the field, everyone's enemies," new Force centre, former Hurricane, Jayden Hayward replied when asked about the presence of Pocock.
"I guess they won't treat him differently. They'll treat him like an enemy."
The match will be broken up into 20-minute quarters, with each team allowed rolling substitutions.