Western Force coach Michael Foley has been forced to reconsider his final recruiting plans for the 2013 Super Rugby season after being hit with long-term injuries to scrum-half Brett Sheehan and hooker Ben Whittaker.
Sheehan had an operation this week on his left ankle, broken during his Wallaby Test debut against Italy in Florence last month, while hooker Ben Whittaker broke his left foot in training.
International marquee signing, All Black Alby Mathewson, will be the starting scrum-half but extended playing squad member Mick Snowden will now come into the reckoning.
Nathan Charles is the Force No.1 hooker but another EPS member James Hilterbrand will be his likely back-up for the start of the season.
Foley still has one spot open in the five-man EPS that sits outside the main Super squad and he had planned to sign a back-line player.
He may now have to use it for a No.9 or a hooker.
If he decides to stay with a back-line option he could ask the Australian Rugby Union for permission to sign players on short-term contracts.
“There is a real possibility that both Brett and Ben will miss a fair chunk of the start of the season and we have to make sure we are three deep in both those positions,” Foley said.
“You need experience in key positions and we’ve got a few things in place. We are currently looking at a couple of players to cover their absence and how they might complement the squad.
“We want to remain flexible. We don’t want to be reactive and will not make rash decisions. We have contingencies in place but we would have preferred to have had to use them later down the track.
“The ARU is fully aware of our position and they are supportive of us maintaining a strong squad.
“We have got the option of using our last EPS contract or a short term contract and the ARU are reasonable in the approach to those contracts.”
The injury is a huge blow to Sheehan, who had to battle back to fitness last season after suffering medial ligament damage to his left knee playing for Sydney club Warringah.