Cummins bolsters Force for Reds clash
May 3, 2013
Western Force wing Nick Cummins will make his return from a lingering knee injury © Getty Images
Western Force wing Nick Cummins and scrumhalf Brett Sheehan will make their long-awaited returns in Saturday night's Super Rugby clash with the Queensland Reds in Perth.
Sheehan hasn't played since suffering a serious ankle injury during his run-on Wallabies debut against Italy in November, while Cummins has missed the past seven matches with a lingering knee issue.
Cummins, who featured heavily for the Wallabies on their Spring Tour, has been named on the left wing, while Sheehan will start on the bench.
Force coach Michael Foley said the return of Cummins and Sheehan would prove critical as the side attempts to notch a third straight victory over the Reds.
"What Nick has is that 100 per cent commitment in everything he does," Foley said. "When he gets on the field there's no holds barred. In a derby match, it's nice to have that.
"Sheeno's never been the greatest on the yo-yo test, but he's actually got a personal best in the last couple of weeks," Foley added. "So that's a real tribute to him. That's not easy to achieve when you've had a lower limb injury."
Force winger Alfie Mafi has been left out for a second straight match after committing an undisclosed breach of team standards a fortnight ago. Mafi hasn't trained with the team all week, but Foley said the 24-year-old will learn his fate next week.
Foley rung the changes following last week's 41-7 hammering at the hands of the Brumbies.
Former Waratahs outside centre Ben Jacobs will make his first appearance for the Force after Winston Stanley succumbed to a shoulder injury, while playmaker Sias Ebersohn has been promoted to the starting side, with Sam Norton-Knight shifting to fullback.
Jayden Hayward was initially pencilled in at fullback, but was instead named on the bench after he was given time off training this week to deal with a personal issue.
Ebersohn and scrumhalf Alby Mathewson starred in the Force's shock 19-12 victory over Queensland at Suncorp Stadium in round five, but the Reds are set to put more defensive pressure on the pair this time around.
Foley said it was important for the Force to do the same thing to star Reds halves pairing Will Genia and Quade Cooper.
"They're two guys that really make defences - good defences - look silly," Foley said. "You saw that in recent weeks against the Chiefs. And to score three tries against the Brumbies is a real tribute to just how dangerous those guys can be if you don't take their space away."
With playmakers Ebersohn, Kyle Godwin and Norton-Knight all in the starting Force side, Foley said it was important for the forwards to give the team good momentum so they could expose the Reds out wide.
Force: Sam Norton-Knight, Patrick Dellit, Ben Jacobs, Kyle Godwin, Nick Cummins, Sias Ebersohn, Alby Mathewson, Ben McCalman, Chris Alcock, Matt Hodgson (captain), Sam Wykes, Toby Lynn, Kieran Longbottom, Heath Tessmann, Pek Cowan. Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Tetera Faulkner, Rory Walton, Richard Brown, Brett Sheehan, Junior Rosolea, Jayden Hayward.