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Force aim to handcuff Phipps
Nick Phipps. Pic: Getty Images

The Western Force are intent on shutting down Rebels scrum-half Nick Phipps in Friday night's season-opening clash in Melbourne.

If the Force can tie down the dangerous Wallabies No.9, it will restrict the supply to the Rebels' two main strike weapons - fly-half Kurtley Beale and full-back James O'Connor.

New Force signing Hugh McMeniman pinpointed the trio as serious threats to the Force, while also remaining wary of their forwards.

"Those guys (Beale and O'Connor) are very elusive and O'Connor just comes into the game whenever he wants from the back," McMeniman said.

"Those guys and Nick Phipps are going to be dangerous.

"He's a key to their game and if we can shut him down, we'll go a long way to shutting the rest of the team down.

"They've got a lot of experience in the forwards, a lot of the guys have been involved in the Wallabies program, but we've got the experienced guys, current and former Wallabies.

"We're confident, especially in the set piece, that we can match them up front and we're confident we'll come away with a win."

McMeniman said the Force had designs on a rapid climb up the ladder.

"We've got a real goal. We want to go out there and top the Australian conference. It starts on Friday night," he said.

"It's non-negotiable. That's what we want to do.

"If we get a win early, it goes a long way to putting us on a roll.

"We've had two good trial games, we are ready to go, excited and confident."

Force coach Michael Foley will name his side tomorrow.

His biggest puzzle is still likely to be his back three where the form of Alfie Mafi, Patrick Dellit and Will Tupou could see him bring Wallabies winger Nick Cummins, who didn't play in the two trials, into outside centre.

Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham has recovered from a shoulder injury and will make his Rebels debut.

  • MELBOURNE REBELS *

Nic Henderson, Ged Robinson, Laurie Weeks, Hugh Pyle, Luke Jones, Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fuglistaller, Gareth Delve (capt), Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Richard Kingi, Rory Sidey, Mitch Inman, Lachlan Mitchell, James O'Connor. *Reserves *: Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emile, Cadeyrn Neville, Jarrod Saffy, Nic Stirzaker, Alex Rokobaro, Tom English