The Western Force open their campaign against their rivals the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night.
For many, the first game will be pivotal in their overall chances in 2023.
Neither side is stacked with internationals, particularly the Force, but new coach Simon Cron has added some experience to the group in Folau Fainga’a, Michael Wells, Hamish Stewart, Bryce Hegarty and Chase Tiatia.
None of the aforementioned names are world beaters, but they’re solid, Super Rugby hardened players who have plenty of years in front of them.
The question is whether they can click together from the outset, with the majority of them to likely start in the opening round.
Cron values the communication and experience in the backfield that Tiatia provides and it’s why the former Chiefs and Hurricanes outside back is likely to find himself in the No.15 jersey ahead of Jake Strachan.
“Chase brings a couple of things for us,” Cron explained.
“He brings leadership, he’s got a calm head in the back field and he’s got a lot of communication, which is an area we need to better at when the ball is in play.”
Cron wasn’t able to lure a headline act to the side, not yet anyway, but there’s pace in the back three and the key for the Force will be keeping fit.
Who wears the No.10 jersey will be fascinating, with Queensland recruit Stewart the front-runner but Hegarty and Bayley Kuenzle options too. Young gun Reesjan Pasitoa is set to miss the season after his knee injury last year.
The return of Santiago Medrano is a big addition for the Force.
Cron was fuming when he found out Medrano was leaving but after Worcester Warriors’ messy exit from the English Premiership, the Force managed to lure the Pumas prop back to Perth.
As for up front, Cron has depth at hooker too with Fainga’a joining fellow Test-capped rake Feleti Kaitu’u, who will be wanting to return to the form of 2021 that won him Wallabies selection.
How the Force turns gallant performances into victories is the great question.
It’s why Cron is eager to work on the “mindset” with his new club.
“We chatted a little bit around mindset,” Cron responded on Wednesday when asked what the first thing he did when he arrived at the club.
“So there’s a couple of areas to work on: there’s skill-set, mindset and structure, so what our approach was to how we’re going to train and who we’re going to train with and who we’re going to push ourselves against.”
Here is our predicted Force side to take on the Rebels in Perth:
15: Chase Tiatia
14: Manasa Mataele
13: Sam Spink
12: Bayley Kuenzle
11: Toni Pulu
10: Hamish Stewart
9: Issak Fines
8: Michael Wells
7: Ollie Callan
6: Tim Anstee
5: Jeremy Williams
4: Izack Rodda
3: Santiago Medrano
2: Folau Fainga’a
1: Tom Robertson
Feleti Kaitu’u, Angus Wagner, Siosifa Amone, Felix Kalapu Jr, Jackson Pugh, Ian Prior, Bryce Hegarty Jake Strachan