The West

Force keen on Kiwi clout
Chris Eaton in action for the Hurricanes last season. Pic: Getty Images

Western Force are on the verge of signing scrum-half Chris Eaton on a short-term contract.

The No.9 would be brought into the Super Rugby squad because Brett Sheehan has another month of recovery after breaking an ankle in November.

Sheehan is hoping for a return for the clash against the Reds in Brisbane next month or the first home game, against the Cheetahs, but the Force are not prepared to gamble on an early return.

They need cover for Alby Mathewson and back-up Mick Snowden.

Both have travelled to South Africa for matches against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday and the Bulls in Pretoria on March 2.

The Force have added captain Matt Hodgson, winger Nick Cummins, prop Salesi Ma'afu, flanker Hugh McMeniman and centre Jayden Hayward to the squad for the two-game tour.

Eaton was a late call-up into the Force A side that beat Melbourne's Rebels Rising side 23-16 on Friday.

He made 27 appearances in the past two years at the Hurricanes, but became a free agent after last season's New Zealand ITM Cup.

He played more than 50 games for Hawkes Bay in the provincial competition.

Eaton, the brother of All Blacks and Hurricanes second-rower Jason, joined the Canes in 2011. He spent much of last season on the bench, behind TJ Perenara, but still made 14 appearances.

Southern Kings are new to the competition, but Force coach Michael Foley said he had been studying vision of their trials.

"We have a little bit of a feel for them," he said.

"Obviously it's going to be a special game for them, playing in front of 50,000 … you rarely get that opportunity as a provincial player.

"People interpret it as a hostile environment. I think there's a real opportunity for our guys who have never played in front of a crowd like that to enjoy that atmosphere."

Foley was pleased with much of his team's display in Friday's 30-23 loss to Melbourne Rebels, but poor line-outs needed to be worked on.

The Force will also assess penalty options after a 43rd-minute decision that turned the Melbourne game when they opted for a scrum close to the Rebels' line instead of taking a shot at goal.

The forwards produced a firm platform but the planned blind-side move went wrong and almost directly from the error the Rebels went the length of the field for a try.

Stand-in skipper Pek Cowan said he stood by the decision.

"As a group we made that decision and no matter what decision we make we back it together as a group," he said. "At the time we thought it was the right decision."

Foley was pleased with signs that the back line was prepared to run and shift the ball. "There was a lot more rhythm and cohesion in the back line and we scored two tries out wide which would have been difficult last year," he said.

The West Australian

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