Stannard forces way into Super Rugby

by Staff Writer

James Stannard's punt on his rugby skills has paid off and he hopes Western Force coach Richard Graham will again roll the dice with him against the Queensland Reds.

The unheralded sevens specialist, recruited by Graham as a halfback, has been a revelation as a stop-gap five-eighth and is now licking his lips about taking on Qantas Wallabies No.10 Quade Cooper on Saturday night.

The Force are expected to have Kiwi import Willie Ripia and star utility both back available from injuries but Stannard's set for a third straight start on the back of his effort in New Zealand against the Hurricanes and Highlanders.

He's desperate for the chance also after coming off the bench to play halfback in round one when Queensland stole a 21-20 win at the death at Suncorp Stadium.

"We owe them one," the 28-year-old told AAP. "I'd love to play (Cooper) and have a crack at him - you never know what he's going to do

"He's the benchmark in Australia and you want to play against the best."

A Brisbane boilermaker, Stannard left his home club Souths in 2007 and paid his way west to try his luck in Perth in the hope of a contract with the newly-established Force.

He managed to break into the squad in 2008 and played 10 matches at halfback but opportunities dried up in the seasons that followed and last year he managed a total of just four minutes on the field for the Brumbies.

It was only through his starring efforts with the Australian sevens team, helping Michael O'Connor's men to a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, that grabbed Graham's attention and earned him a return to Perth.

"I liked the sevens and I was thinking geez I could do this for the time being and if anything comes up it comes up - I was more focused on the sevens," Stannard said.

While Ripia will struggle to regain his starting spot and there's concerns over fullback Cameron Shepherd (hamstring), halfback Brett Sheehan and inside centre James O'Connor are both fit and likely to slotstraight back in at No.9 and No.12.

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