Hodgson, Wykes return for Force

Thu, 21 Mar 2013 08:25
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Western Force captain Matt Hodgson and lock Sam Wykes are in line to return from injury when the Western Force christens the new nib Stadium.

Western Force captain Matt Hodgson and lock Sam Wykes are in line to return from injury when the Western Force christens the new nib Stadium against the Cheetahs on Saturday.

Hodgson initially suffered a hamstring injury in the lead-up to the season opener against the Melbourne Rebels, before aggravating it in the Week Three clash against the Bulls in Pretoria.

His absence from last weekend's win over the Queensland Reds allowed him to be at the birth of he and wife Jo's first child, Hunter Patrick, last Thursday.

Head coach Michael Foley has named an initial 23-man squad to face the Cheetahs - with Wykes, who has recovered from an ankle injury sustained in training last week, set to replace Phoenix Battye in the matchday squad.

The match will mark wing Alfie Mafi's 50th in Super Rugby.

Mafi, who currently shares a hold of the leading try-scorer's mantle with four touchdowns, has played 33 matches over three seasons for the Force, having previously represented the Waratahs (nine matches in 2008) and the Brumbies (seven matches in 2009 and 2010).

The match against the Cheetahs is the first home fixture for the Western Force in 2013, following the AU$95 million renovation of nib Stadium.

The new stadium now features a towering eastern grandstand, new southern stand and two massive replay screens at either end of the ground.

Foley said the revamped nib Stadium ushers in a new era for the Western Force in Perth.

"We now have a fantastic new home and we're very proud to be playing back in Perth, in front of the Sea of Blue," he said.

"An important part of our development will be to earn the respect of our people through the way we perform in our home.

"Last week we showed great character in the way we supported each other through the 80 minutes.

"To hold the Reds try-less was important, as we face another strong attacking side this week."

Western Force squad: Chris Alcock, Richard Brown, Nathan Charles, Angus Cottrell, Pek Cowan, Patrick Dellit, Sias Ebersohn, Tetera Faulkner, Kyle Godwin, Jayden Hayward, Matt Hodgson (captain), Toby Lynn, Salesi Ma'afu, Alfie Mafi, Alby Mathewson, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Junior Rasolea, Mick Snowden, Winston Stanley, Heath Tessmann, Will Tupou, Sam Wykes.

Date: Saturday, 23 March
Venue: NIB Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 18.45 (12.45 SA time; 10.45 GMT)
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Ian Smith (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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