Bill Meakes is still fresh to Super Rugby but he has some extra insight into his opposite number on Friday night, a man he describes as the ‘rounded package’.
Meakes is set to go head-to-head with former Force inside centre Kyle Godwin, with the pair overlapping after Meakes’ arrival in Perth last year.
“I got to know Kyle a little bit in the back end when I got here,” he said.
“He's a great guy and a fantastic player as well.
“He obviously had a great back end of the year last year, being involved in the Spring Tour and the Wallabies and I think he's going to be another big challenge for me.
“He's got a great kicking game, great running game and I think last week showed his distribution game as well, so he's pretty much the rounded package.”
While a sense Meakes has replaced Godwin at the Force, outside of wearing the number 12, they couldn’t be much more different, coach Dave Wessels said.
“Just they’re different people - they’re quite different in personality,” he said.
“In some ways, Billy has had different rugby experiences, playing overseas, while Kyle had only known the Force, and that’s not a good or bad thing but they’ve been moulded in different ways.”
Wessels admits he knew little of Meakes until some of his charges pointed out the Gloucester centre, and an endorsement from former Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher helped his cause.
“Some of our own players who had known him previously brought him to me in the first instance,” he said.
“Dane Haylett-Petty knew Billy from Europe and from the east coast and I’d never really heard of him, to be honest, but he’s come over and been great right from the start.”
His relentlessness in defence has caught the eye of Wallabies MIchael Cheika and Wessels said that propelled him into a leadership role almost immediately in the Force’s new-look backline.
“He’s almost like an extra flanker, he’s very tough on our own ball,” he said.
“Billy leads our defence and he’s an excellent communicator. He also works very hard prior to the game, he spends time in review, he’s across all the details.”
After three seasons in Gloucester, it’s defence Meakes says is his trademark.
“I think defence for me is something I pride myself on, something I've learned to love in England,” he said.
“I think my approach to the breakdown over the last couple of years has become what separates me from most centres and my whole aggression around the park, it’s something I've been working on and I like to bring to the game.”
Though he’s made his mark in the early days with defence, Wessels warned there’s more to come in Meakes’ arsenal.
“He’s actually got surprisingly good feet ball in the face of defence,” he said.
“Some defenders are surprised about how easily Billy moves and that often gets us on the front foot.”
It took his Premiership stint, under Fisher, for Meakes to truly understand what he needed to do to make the jump from club to professional rugby.
“It was a massive eye opener,” he said.
“It's all well and good looking into a Super Rugby setup and thinking you know what you need to do but actually being thrown into it and seeing what it takes to actually get yourself on the pitch and in the matchday 23 was a huge eye opener.
“I think that's probably the main thing that I learned overseas is how much hard work it takes and how much actually have to do to get there.”
That awakening has paid off at the Force, with Meakes scouring over reviews and often at the club doing extras.
“He was slightly older when his opportunity came along, he’s thrown 150 per cent at it because he’s been waiting for it for a long time,” he said.
“Everything off the field, his analysis around his own game, all that sort of stuff, he really wants to be the best he can be.”
The Force take on the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.