Super Rugby: Western Force proving resilient, despite impending axe

Western Force players reacting during their match against the Crusaders. Photo/Getty Images
Western Force players reacting during their match against the Crusaders. Photo/Getty Images

Coach Dave Wessels admits his players have been unsettled by rumours of the Western Force's impending demise, but he's confident the situation will further galvanise the group.

Reports are rife the Force will be the Australian franchise axed, if Super Rugby reverts to a 15-team format.

The ARU insists no decision has been made, but the rumours don't spell good news for the Force.

The uncertainty is potentially a huge distraction, heading into Saturday's clash with the Blues in Auckland.

Wessels admits the prospect of the side being cut has been a huge talking point among the players, but he is proud of how the fledging group has handled the situation.

"It is unsettling," Wessels said today. "We rely on this to support our families, this is our livelihood.

"Many of the guys have got young kids, so there's no doubt it creates some pressure. We had a discussion about it on Tuesday morning, after the news broke, and the boys were pretty honest.

"We had one of the better training sessions we've had, straight after. We recognise the best statement we can make is through our performances.

"There's a lot of people championing our cause. We've been blown away by the amount of support we've received."

Wessels said the tightness of the group was so evident, even a NZ bus driver was taken aback.

"The bus driver in Christchurch sent us a text, after he'd driven us around," Wessels explained. "He said that he'd been driving teams around for years and years, and this is the closest and the happiest team he'd ever driven around.

"This is a special group and they're trying very hard. We could probably do without the extra pressure, but I'm very proud of the way the guys have stuck together and the focus they've shown during training."

The Force will be bolstered by the return of Wallabies fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and Billy Meakes against the Blues. Flanker Matt Hodgson has been named in the run-on side, after returning from injury last week, but centre Curtis Rona (concussion) is ruled out.

The Force have only beaten the Blues once in 10 attempts - 27-17 in North Harbour in 2008.

Wessels says his team were too passive in the early stages of last week's 45-17 loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch and he expects a much-improved defensive effort.

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