Ben McCalman's 2017 start delayed

Super Rugby
AAP
by AAP

New Western Force skipper Ben McCalman could miss the start of the Super Rugby season after undergoing surgery on his right thumb.

McCalman dislocated his thumb last week at training, with coach Dave Wessels rating the 28-year-old a 50-50 chance to front up for the season opener against the NSW Waratahs on February 25 in Sydney.

The injury continues a run of bad luck for McCalman after breaking his shoulder twice last year.

Ben mccalman signs a new three-year contract extension: Getty imagesEven if McCalman is passed fit to take on the Waratahs, he will enter the clash without having played a pre-season match.

Wessels said the lack of match practice wasn't a concern.

"I'm not worried about him," Wessels said on Friday.

"He's a guy who's played a lot of rugby. Those senior guys generally have a switch - they understand how to perform.

"Although he's had those niggles, they're not injuries that have necessarily stopped him from training. So actually his body is feeling pretty good.

"It's just a dislocated thumb - it's not a massive deal. - 

"It was where the dislocation happened that was a bit unusual - it happened at the base of his thumb."

The Force's preparation for the season proper will go up a gear on Monday when they take on the Melbourne Rebels in a trial on the Gold Coast.

Wessels wants to use the match to test how his players perform under pressure, as well as to get a clearer picture of what his best squad looks like.

Although McCalman is under an injury cloud, former skipper Matt Hodgson is fit and primed for round one.

Matt Hodgson returned from injury for his first game since the 2016 Super Rugby season. Photo: True Spirit PhotographyHodgson missed the tail end of last season with a dislocated shoulder, but the 35-year-old training strongly during the summer.

"Touch wood, his 57-year-old body is holding up OK," Wessels said with a laugh.

"He's going well.

"In many ways, Hodgo is the Western Force. He's a great club guy. He's doing a lot to support Tes (Heath Tessmann) and Dog (McCalman) in their captaincy roles.

"He's almost another coach for us out there."

The Force's long-term future remains up in the air, with SANZAAR still yet to decide what the make-up of the Super Rugby competition will be like beyond this year.

But the Force's hopes of surviving received a massive boost earlier this week when they secured a naming rights sponsorship with the Road Safety Commission.

The deal is worth $1.5 million for this year alone, with the partnership featuring a three-year renewal option to cover the existing broadcast agreement.

The deal - along with the club's 'Own the Force' campaign - will go a long way towards proving the Perth-based franchise can become financially viable.

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