The West

Force s Cowan fit to face Rebels
Force's Cowan fit to face Rebels

Western Force received a boost ahead of tomorrow night's clash in Melbourne with prop Pek Cowan included in the squad for the crucial meeting with the Rebels.

Cowan, who injured his leg in the win over the Waratahs last Saturday, flew with the squad yesterday as did scrum-half Justin Turner, who will go to the reserves bench.

He will be back-up to Ian Prior after first-choice No.9 Alby Mathewson was ruled out with an ankle injury. He could miss a month but does not need surgery.

Tomorrow night's game is crucial to the Force if they are to become genuine contenders.

They have the Bulls at nib Stadium next Saturday, followed by a bye, before heading to South Africa.

A sixth consecutive win would take them to the top of the Australian Super Rugby conference.

It is a particularly important game for the Force's Ben McCalman - the form Australian No.8. He will want to put in an impressive performance against another contender for a Wallabies jumper, Scott Higginbotham.

With former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen ruling himself out of another Australian appearance by signing in France, McCalman is the front-runner for the spot.

Higginbotham, the Rebels captain, is a dynamic ball-runner and support player and McCalman will be out to nullify him.

"I'd say we'll cross paths a few times. I'm looking forward to that," McCalman said. "I know him very well, I understand how he likes to play, how he fits into that Rebels side.

"He's a player they look to get them over the advantage line when they need a forward carry or when things aren't quite going their way, to change the game.

"That's what he has a knack of doing. He's been playing pretty well.

"I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge."

The Force have not won at AAMI Park since 2011 and McCalman identified scrum-half Luke Burgess as another big threat.

"He will look to create havoc around the ruck and challenge our defenders, so we'll have to prepare for that," McCalman said.

The Rebels will be seeking revenge for the 32-7 walloping the Force handed out at nib Stadium last month, a result that started the Perth side's five-game winning streak.

McCalman said the Force had proved a point with their hard-fought victory over the Waratahs at the weekend.

"It was one of the best efforts I've seen from an entire team, the ability to cover for each other if you missed a tackle," he said.


_TOMORROW _: Hurricanes v Blues, Rebels v Force

_SATURDAY _: Chiefs v Crusaders, Waratahs v Bulls, Sharks v Cheetahs, Stormers v Lions

The West Australian

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