Force three back in fold
Force forwards Pek Cowan, left, and Matt Hodgson have been rewarded for their form by making the Wallabies squad. Picture: Gerald Moscarda/WA News

Three of the Western Force quintet selected in the Australian squad for next month's three-Test series against France have come in from the cold after putting dark days behind them.

The Force's longest serving players, captain Matt Hodgson and prop Pek Cowan, are back after three years in the Wallabies wilderness while hooker Nathan Charles has overcome the disappointment of missing selection after making the 2010 training squad and a 2013 season-ending knee injury.

Hodgson and Cowan are the last Force foundation members still playing and have the chance to reignite their international careers after playing their last Test in 2011 against South Africa.

Force No.8 Ben McCalman and winger Nick Cummins make up the Force contingent in coach Ewen McKenzie's squad.

Hodgson has had a remarkable season.

He is Super Rugby's top tackler with 179 successful hits and coupled with his two dozen turnovers would have been quickly pencilled in by McKenzie.

"You always think that it's over once you play your last game, but every game there's always a little bit of hope and you never say never," Hodgson said.

"You always want to play for your country, it's been a while, but I've enjoyed my football this year and it's good to be rewarded.

"I'm really enjoying leading the boys out there.

"It's another string to my bow and rejuvenated me. The team is doing well and that has been rewarded by having five in the squad."

Cowan said making the Wallabies was a goal he set after pre-season talks with coach Michael Foley.

"He saw a few kinks in my armour. Leading into the season I had to work really hard on those things and it's paid dividends," Cowan said.

"As soon as you stop making the squad you do start questioning yourself and you have to go back and rebuild, try and lead from the front and tick all the boxes on and off the field.

"It hasn't been easy but it's paid off. It's a little bit surreal to be honest."

Charles was given his selection news by Foley on Wednesday afternoon.

"It was hard to contain the smile but we had training straight after and we had to get back to business," Charles said.

"There's always plenty of doubt whether you can make it back again but one thing I took out of my time in rehabilitation for the knee was that it could all be over tomorrow, so enjoy what you have now.

"I've worked hard, enjoyed my rugby and I'm having fun. It's very exciting."

Foley has made two changes to his injury-stricken side for tomorrow night's clash with the Lions at nib Stadium.

Winger Dane Haylett-Petty has been named to replace Marcel Brache who sustained an ankle injury in the loss to the Stormers in Cape Town and second-rower Wilhelm Steenkamp swaps his place on the bench with Adam Coleman.

TEAMS

Western Force: Pek Cowan, Nathan Charles, Kieran Longbottom, Sam Wykes, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson (capt), Ben McCalman, Ian Prior, Sias Ebersohn, Nick Cummins, Luke Burton, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Dane Haylett-Petty, Jayden Hayward. *Reserves *: Heath Tessmann, Tetera Faulkner, Ollie Hoskins, Adam Coleman, Brynard Stander, Justin Turner, Zack Holmes, Patrick Dellit.

Lions: Corne Fourie, Armand van der Merwe, Ruan Dreyer, Rudi Mathee, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley (capt), Ross Cronje, Marnitz Boshoff, Anthony Volmink, Alwyn Hollenbach, Deon van Rensburg, JW Jonker, Coenie van Wyk. *Reserves *: Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen, Julian Redelinghuys, Willie Britz, Stephan de Wit, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Stefan Watermeyer.

The West Australian

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