Twenty Western Force members and 20 local players have been named in the Perth Spirit extended squad for next month’s National Rugby Championship.
The Force’s four Wallabies, captain Matt Hodgson, hooker Nathan Charles, prop Pek Cowan, and No.8 Ben McCalman, have been included but will only play if not needed for the Rugby Championship.
WA’s four Australian under-20 players, Ross Haylett-Petty, Luke Burton, Brad Lacey and Harry Scoble, will all figure in the tournament with RugbyWA’s 2013 fairest and best winner Joe Savage.
The Spirit will play eight regular season matches in the new third-tier competition, kicking off their season against the Canberra Vikings in Canberra on Saturday, 23 August
They will play home matches against Brisbane City at McGillivray Oval on Sunday August 31, Sydney Stars at HBF Arena, Joondalup on Sunday September 28 and Queensland Country at Rockingham six days later.
Local players have been monitored throughout the RugbyWA Premier Grade season and Force coach Michael Foley said the Spirit side would be an extension of the Force programme and provide opportunities for both his Super Rugby squad and local players.
“This time last year we undertook an intensive development period which targeted three key areas,” Foley said.
“Firstly achieving elite levels of fitness and strength, secondly strengthening our involvement with our local clubs and finally ensuring every player had begun planning for life after rugby.
“The 2014 NRC competition provides us with another forum to target further development.
“While a number of our front line Super Rugby players will target improvement in speed, power and skill, the Perth Spirit match programme will present a great opportunity for a number of the Force’s younger players to experience competition at one level up from club rugby.
“To complement our younger professional players we have identified a number of aspiring local players that will be given the chance to stake a claim for squad positions into the future.
“Our program will continue to remain focused on the development of our players on and off the field, but as part of that, the NRC competition will allow us to broaden the base of players with experience that are available to the Western Force.
“To that end, it’s important we’re providing those opportunities as a priority to players within the RugbyWA family.”
Perth Spirit (extended squad): Robbie Abel, Marcel Brache, Luke Burton, Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan, Tetera Faulkner, Nili Fielea, Kyle Godwin, Richard Hardwick, Dane Haylett-Petty, Ross Haylett-Petty, Chris Heiberg, Alec Hepburn, Matt Hodgson, Zack Holmes, Oliver Hoskins, Kane Koteka, Brad Lacey, Dillyn Leyds, Va’a Mailei, Ammon Matuauto, Ben McCalman, Luke Morahan, Brent Murphy, Ian Prior, Junior Rasolea, Alex Rovira, Michael Ruru, Joe Savage, Harry Scoble, Brynard Stander, Scott Stevens, Kieran Stringer, Davis Tavita, Heath Tessmann, Corey Thomas, Justin Turner, Rory Walton, Francis van Wyk, Sam Wykes.