McCalman on verge of Super Rugby return

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Western Force captain Ben McCalman looks set to finally run out for his side in 2017, after battling a thumb injury in the opening part of the year.

McCalman injured the appendage in a preseason trial and has been unable to shake off the injury in the opening six weeks of the competition.

The backrower made it through training on Wednesday, the major hurdle he faced before a Super Rugby return.

It’s the second stop-start Super Rugby season for McCalman, who battled a broken scapula in the back half of last year.

Ben McCalman's sideline stint will stretch to one more week. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThough he’s been frustrated by his layoff, McCalman said he was looking forward to slotting into a new-look backrow.

“It’s been frustrating but I’ve been impressed by the players that have actually played in the squad and especially the backrow,” he said.

“I think Richard Hardwick’s had a great season and big Isi as well, the flying Fijians come over and  really stepped up.

“It’s been a great opportunity for those boys but I really look forward to playing with them.”

The injury layoff has given McCalman a chance to see the grassroots side of rugby in Perth, cementing in his mind the support for the code in the state.

“The fact I didn’t go away to New Zealand, I got to go to a couple of Thursday night trainings at different clubs and then go and watch club games on weekends and (see) the support everyone shows in club rugby and the Force being there, (it’s) something they aspire to and want to achieve, is to play,” he said.

“The support we have over here is immense and every weekend they turn up and support us and it’s a very good crowd to play in front of.

“Also, the players we develop here as well, local players. I’m not from Perth and not a local player but I started my rugby career here and was picked up and played 49 tests now for Australia.

“It’s a great opportunity to play here and be seen by all national coaches and an opportunity to play for your country.”

While fullback Dane Haylett-Petty said the ongoing speculation around the team’s Super Rugby future was seeping into their minds, McCalman said the team was trying not to think about it.

“It just shows you can’t believe what you read,” he said.

“If you read that or every week it’s a different team. Next year there’ll be two teams in Super Rugby so we’re not buying into too much of that.”

The Force were fired up in Sydney. Photo: Getty ImageesMcCalman said he felt the uncertainty didn’t help anyone.

“I imagine the ARU want to be able to give us answers,” he said.

“We understand it’s a complicated process, a very frustrating one for all involved.

“I’m sure they’re frustrated as well that they can’t come out and tell everyone the future of Super Rugby.”

“It’s something we have to deal with at the moment.”

SANZAAR aside, McCalman said Sunday’s match against the Kings was one they targeted to win.

“I think it is. You don’t often talk about games that you want to win or you feel you have to win,” he said.

“I feel this is a game we really target, mainly because it’s at home and we’ve shown the last two weeks the opportunities we can create so hopefully we can convert those this weekend.

“They’re a very physical side.

“They haven’t had the results they want but they force teams to play a style of rugby they don’t want to play or the game plan they take into the game.”

The Western Force host the Kings on Sunday at 2:05pm local, 4:05pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.

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