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All hands on deck as Force overcome COVID

Wed, 27/04/2022, 8:33 am
AAP
by AAP
Western Force coach Tim Sampson and stand-in captain Kyle Godwin spoke after their match against the Rebels.

Western Force coach Tim Sampson insists there was simply no way he could have fielded a team last week after COVID-19 ripped through the player squad.

The Force successfully petitioned SANZAAR for last week's game against Moana Pasifika in Melbourne to be postponed.

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Clubs who are hit by a COVID-19 outbreak have access to a pool of shared players, but even that wouldn't have been enough to fill the many holes left by the virus at the Force.

Sampson felt any criticism of the decision to call off the game was unfair.

"We tried everything to get that game to go ahead," Sampson said. 

"Even within two hours of jumping on the bus to leave to the airport we were still going. 

"But we had a couple of late scratchings, which was unfortunate. It was up front in key positions. 

"In the end we had one contracted front rower available to us out of the 10.

"Like with COVID, first and foremost we were concerned about the players' health. 

"We weren't prepared to throw guys on the field who weren't health-wise up to it.

"It got to a point where we could not field a 23."

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The Force are now clear of COVID-19, with all but one player out of quarantine. That final player is set to be released on Thursday.

The return of a number of players from injury has also bolstered the Force's ranks ahead of Friday night's home clash with the ladder-leading Blues.

Wallabies lock Izack Rodda, captain Feleti Kaitu'u, prop Tom Robertson, winger Toni Pulu, centre Bayley Kuenzle and veteran lock Jeremy Thrush are among the names to return to the match-day squad. 

All but Thrush were named in the starting side.

"We're pretty much all men on deck now," Sampson said.

Issak Fines-Leleiwasa has replaced Ian Prior at scrumhalf. 

The Force (2-6) are clinging to eighth spot and are in desperate need of a win.

FORCE (1-15): Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu'u (c), Santiago Medrano, Ryan McCauley, Izack Rodda, Fergus Lee-Warner, Kane Koteka, Ollie Callan, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Reesjan Pasitoa, Manasa Mataele, Bayley Kuenzle, Kyle Godwin, Toni Pulu, Jake Strachan/Jake McIntyre

RESERVES: Andrew Ready, Bo Abra, Greg Holmes, Jeremy Thrush, Tim Anstee, Alex Masibaka, Ian Prior, Richard Kahui

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