Force brace for physical pre-season contest
Force brace for physical pre-season contest

There have been countless contact drills and a couple of internal trials, but there is nothing like the first full-blooded hit-out of the season.

Western Force players have been dishing it up to each other in training and have had two warm-up games against sides of academy and local players.

But they face their first big test tonight against Samoa A in a pre-season trial at Lark Hill. The Pacific Islanders are renowned for their ferocious tackling.

Force hooker Heath Tessmann said the two internal trials had given them an opportunity to "get into each other".

"Now we're excited to have some good strong opposition to give us a good test," he said.

"We've got some opposition who don't know our game plans, don't know what we're running."

He said the squad had been working on a more united approach to the season.

"Getting us all working together, it's been a big focus," he said.

"Last year as a forward pack we did some very good things, as a back line we did some very good things, but we weren't always doing them at the same time.

"We have to work together and be on the same page.

"This year we have taken it up another notch and the expectation on the group is a lot higher."

The forwards have worked on their set pieces after some poor line-outs last year and because they will be playing under new scrum laws for the first time.

"Our scrum and line-out have been a big focus for us because we slipped away with those statistically a little," Tessmann said.

"The drop-off (at line-outs) didn't sit too well with me being a hooker but the work of Wilhelm (Steenkamp) and Wykesy (Sam Wykes) in particular has spread the load and we've added a bit of polish to that."

The "crouch, bind, set" scrum sequence reduces the importance of the hit and puts more emphasis on the technical side of scrummaging.

The Force, rarely the bigger pack, often tried to crowd the front row and nullify a big hit.

Tessmann believes the new laws will help them when they are the attacking scrum.

Tessmann, who is in the first year of a new two-season deal, had a stellar rise last year.

Force coach Michael Foley invited him to train with the club on a three-month contract but injuries to Nathan Charles (knee) and Ben Whittaker (foot) meant he went straight into the front row, started 10 matches and finished fifth in the 2013 Nathan Sharpe Medal voting.

The West Australian

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