The West

Force look to shore up squad for the future
Force coach Michael Foley. Pic: Getty Images

The Western Force have three weeks to ponder the immediate challenge of a maiden Super Rugby finals berth, but it is also an important period as they look to the future.

While contract negotiations have been ongoing, the break for the Wallabies Test series against France gives the club a chance to tie up deals and enter discussions with potential new recruits.

The Force had 12 players out of contract at the end of the season, but have signed or reached agreement with about half of them.

They are poised to announce back-rower Angus Cottrell, who will see a specialist in Brisbane today after breaking his left leg in Friday's 30-7 thumping from the Crusaders, and winger Dane Haylett-Petty have renewed their deals.

High on the retention list are foundation prop Pek Cowan, fly-half Sias Ebersohn and full-back Jayden Hayward.

Coach Michael Foley will need a replacement for back-rower Hugh McMeniman, who is returning to Japan.

Out-of-contract Queensland flankers Jake Schatz and Ed Quirk have shown interest in heading to WA, but Foley may look overseas.

Two other Reds, flier Rod Davies and back line "Mr Fix-it" Ben Lucas, are also said to be interested in a move west.

The loss of tighthead prop Kieran Longbottom, who surprisingly signed a huge deal with English club Saracens while on the verge of Wallabies selection, is a big blow.

Foley has a number of younger front-rowers, but one possibility is moving current loosehead Tetera Faulkner back to the other side of the scrum where he started games last year.

In one of the tightest competitions in Super Rugby history, 10 sides are still in top six and finals contention.

The Force are well placed for a charge in seventh spot, despite the loss to the Crusaders.

Winning their last three games against the Blues and Reds at home and the Brumbies in Canberra would guarantee them a place.

Two wins, preferably with at least one bonus point, would just about book their post-season berth.

Meanwhile, SANZAR will not investigate an apparent shoulder charge by All Blacks captain Richie McCaw on Force flanker Brynard Stander on Friday.

The West Australian

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