Force also shopping in 'local' markets
The Force has added a further two Western Australian players to its 2014 squad with the signing of inside back Luke Burton and scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens.
The Western Force has added a further two Western Australian players to its 2014 squad with the signing of inside back Luke Burton (UWA Rugby Club) and scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens (Cottesloe Rugby Club).
Burton and Louwrens, who join the squad on one-year extended playing squad contracts, extends the already record number of local players in the squad to six, joining Kyle Godwin, Kieran Longbottom, Zack Holmes and Dane Haylett-Petty.
The promotion of the local pair into the senior squad reinforces the franchise's focus on providing a pathway for outstanding local talent as well as a move away from a traditional reliance on the east-coast based player pool.
Both Burton and Louwrens have progressed through the ranks of the RugbyWA Academy and will enter the 2014 pre-season having already been regular members of the Force's extended training squad during the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Western Force coach Michael Foley said he's pleased to feature a record number of local players within his squad.
"We are a West Australian team and it's important we acknowledge quality local talent," he said.
"Luke and Ryan have earned their opportunity through consistent performances in the local competition and consistent hard work under [RugbyWA Junior Elite Coach] Dwayne Nestor in the Academy.
"They've presented as extremely determined, competitive and humble during our '1st team' sessions this season and have earnt respect amongst the team as a result.
"Their promotion, along with Kyle [Godwin], Kieran [Longbottom], Dane [Haylett-Petty] and Zack [Holmes] into the Force squad is a tremendous testament to the work Dwayne Nestor has done with our Academy.
"Luke is a tough and skilful inside back, who performed well for the Australian Under 20's in France earlier this year and I'm extremely pleased that he turned down offers from other states to stay and play for us.
"Importantly for a No.9, Ryan has a very strong pass and is developing good game sense. His contributions during Cottesloe's grand final run, for Force 'A', and during our pre-season trials have all been of a high quality. He is uniquely placed over the next two seasons to benefit from Alby's [Mathewson] and Ian's [Prior] experiences at international and Super Rugby levels."
Perth-born Luke Burton represented Western Australia at Under-15, Under-16 and Schoolboy level before earning selection with the Australia Under-20 squad at this year's IRB Junior World Championship in France. The 19-year-old played all five matches, crossing for two tries during the side's seventh-place finish at the tournament.
Burton, a Hale College graduate, said playing for the Western Force has been his ambition since joining RugbyWA's Bankwest Academy five years ago.
"I'm really proud to be born and raised in WA and to have the opportunity to play for my state," he said. "I'm excited about continuing my development on home soil and, as someone who's aspired to play for the Force, I'm really grateful for the opportunity the franchise has given me.
"When you're in the younger ages in the Academy, you always look up to the Force players and want to be there one day which gave me the motivation to work hard and reach my goal.
"Now I'm in the squad, my next goal is to play Super Rugby.
"Joining the Force in the 2013 pre-season in the wider training squad really helped in my Australian Under 20's preparation and it was an enjoyable and challenging experience.
"I'm looking forward to working with some great players like Kyle Godwin, who I played against at school, and Sias Ebersohn to see how I can develop my game."
Scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens was born in South Africa and joined the Bankwest Academy on moving to Perth in 2008.
The former Churchlands High School student returned to South Africa in 2009 to finish his schooling where he represented the Falcons during the prestigious Craven Week schoolboys tournament and the Under-19 age group competition.
He re-joined the Bankwest Academy in 2011 before representing Force 'A' across 2012 and 2013.
Louwrens, who will start for Cottesloe in their Pindan Premier Grade grand final against Nedlands on Sunday, said he's looking forward to continuing his development with the Western Force.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to experience Super Rugby with the Force," he said.
"It's been great training with the team this year. They worked hard to build a foundation in 2013 and it's exciting to be a part of the next step and have the opportunity to learn from the older guys in the squad."