Western Force scramble for pre-season games, waiting for new Super Rugby draw, amid border restrictions

Headshot of Nick Taylor
Nick TaylorThe West Australian
Jeremy Thrush crosses for a try last season.
Camera IconJeremy Thrush crosses for a try last season. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Westen Force’s build-up for the new Super Rugby Pacific competition has been hit by COVID border restrictions as they wait for a revamped fixture list.

A trial match against the Reds in Geraldton on February 4, the day before WA border restrictions are relaxed, has been cancelled because the Queenslanders cannot not get into the state.

The Force are due to play new franchise Fijian Drua on February 10 in NSW or Queensland but are waiting for a decision on borders and a new draw for the trans-Tasman competition before deciding on a second trial. They will instead have an internal trial.

The draw was originally released last month but changing border rules, particularly the NZ government’s re-opening plan which requires all arrivals to self-isolate for seven days, looks likely to change the schedule.

The Force are due to open their season on Friday February 18 at HBF Park with the grudge match against Melbourne Rebels.

Force chief executive Tony Lewis said: “The Reds can’t come into the state and we are working through a number of different possibilities.

“We will wait to see what happens to the new draw and see what it throws up before we make any commitments.”

Meanwhile five clubs have been relegated from the RugbyWA Premiership competition to the Championship grade in a major re-shuffle of the local game.

Two, Southern Lions and ARKS, were dropped after breaches of competition rules last season.

Curtin University, who took heavy beatings and finished bottom of the premiership ladder without a win last year, have moved back into the Championship.

They have been joined by Rockingham and Mandurah who last year played as joint Premiership venture Coastal Cavaliers that has now been scrapped.

The governing body said decisions were made after a season review.

“RugbyWA has taken a strong stance on the integrity and governance of the game, with strict adherence to competition rules and relevant policy,” they said in a statement.

“Two clubs had multiple breaches of the competition rules and policy in 2021....it was recommended that RugbyWA hand-down penalties against the multiple breaches.

“This has resulted in a two-year expulsion from Premier grade for both clubs with year two being a suspended penalty probation year.

“This was not an easy decision, but one that was required to uphold the integrity and governance of the game in WA.

“Whilst we appreciate timing is not ideal there have been some mitigating factors that have not allowed RugbyWA to action items in a more expedient manner.”

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