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Western Force raring to go in Top End
Matt Hodgson. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Western Force are keen to erase memories of a poor 2012 with a solid showing in their first trial match of the season against the Brumbies at Rugby Park in Darwin on Friday night.

The Force finished last in the Australian conference with just three wins, marking another year they were well out of finals reckoning.

There's no indication things will get any easier for the team entering their eighth year in Super Rugby, the loss of outstanding flanker David Pocock to the Brumbies and the retirement of Wallabies stalwart Nathan Sharpe hardly helping the cause.

But new Force captain Matt Hodgson says the squad, which contains 11 new faces including ex-Waratah Sam Norton-Knight and towering former Reds lock Hugh McMeniman, is looking ahead.

"It is a new leaf for us," Hodgson said.

"We started fresh when we all came together early in the pre-season so we sort of wiped what we could from last year out of our memories and we are starting afresh.

"We are trying a lot of things, different combinations."

The match marks an early initiation for Pocock, a foundation player with the Force.

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said he expected the outstanding No.7 to come in for a bit of stick from his former teammates.

"I'll say he'll probably get a little niggle but, a guy with his experience, he's probably been targeted a lot before," Mowen said.

Most of the squad would play about 40 minutes each because of the high humidity of the Top End.

Former Wallabies winger Clyde Rathbone is also expected to start in his first match back since his 2009 retirement.

Rathbone played 49 times for the Brumbies and 26 times for Australia before a series of injuries curtailed the outside back's career.

The South African-born Rathbone battled with weight gain and depression for several years before getting fit and announcing a return to the game last year.

Mowen said the 31-year-old would get some time to show his wares.

"He's going to split his time between outside centre and wing as well," Mowen said.

"He's played a lot of outside centre at school so he's pretty comfortable there."

- Australian Associated Press