Eggleston previews Crusaders clash - 'We'll need to be at our best'

Wed, Apr 17, 2024, 12:52 AM
by Ben Somerford
Western Force defence coach Will Eggleston spoke to the media ahead of the Round 9 clash against the Crusaders at HBF Park.

Western Force defence coach Will Eggleston says the side will need to be at their best on Saturday night against the Crusaders, despite the visitors’ one-win start to the season.

The reigning Super Rugby back-to-back champions are sitting 11th on the ladder with one win and six defeats ahead of Saturday’s game from 5:40pm (adjusted due to pre-game ceremony) at HBF Park. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.

It’s been a period of change in Canterbury, with long-time coach Scott Robertson moving on to take over at the All Blacks, while Richie Mo’unga and Sam Whitelock were among those to exit in the off-season.

The Crusaders have copped injuries to internationals Will Jordan, Leigh Halfpenny and Scott Barrett along with full-back Fergus Burke, while Ethan Blackadder and Brodie McAlister returned from injuries against the NSW Waratahs last time out.

But Eggleston was quick to ensure the Force weren’t taking the 12-time Super Rugby champions lightly.

“They’re a very strong side,” Eggleston told reporters. “People look at where they’re at on the competition ladder at the moment, but make no bones about it, we’re going to have to be at our best on Saturday.

“They’re not a team that’s coming in here that’s suddenly dropped off a cliff. There’s All Blacks littered through their side.

“If they’re not All Blacks, they’ve got a lot of Super Rugby caps within that group. We know it’s a great test and we can’t wait.”

The game also marks the Force’s first encounter at HBF Park since March 23 when they beat the Queensland Reds 40-31 in an impressive display.

“Really exciting,” Eggleston said about returning home. “We love it there, we love playing in the heat.

“We love the Sea of Blue coming out and supporting us every week, we can’t wait.”

The side could be boosted by 95-cap Wallabies utility back Kurtley Beale who signed with the Force during the mid-season bye on an injury cover contract for Harry Potter (ankle surgery).

The English assistant said Beale would bring plenty to the backline if available and selected for Saturday, having linked up with his new Force teammates for the first time on Monday when training resumed after the bye.

“He’s settled in really well,” Eggleston said. “When somebody of 95 Test caps becomes available - and we pick up an unfortunate injury like we did with Harry - it’s fantastic for him to be able to add to our young group.

“He brings a fantastic rugby brain and loud voice. You hear him before you see him. He’ll be great for our group.

“He’ll put our wingers away nicely. We’ve been creating space in a lot of our games but maybe that last pass hasn’t gone to hand or hasn’t gone where we’d like it to. I think he’ll be able to open up our edges a bit more.”

Like the Crusaders, the Force may only have one win from their first seven games, but the top-eight race remains open ahead of the second-half of the season.

The Force are eight points behind eighth-placed Moana Pasifika, knowing a few wins can catapult the side right back into contention.

“We’re not far away,” Eggleston said. “We’ve spoken about making sure we don’t look too far ahead.

“As soon as we start looking at who we need to beat, how many points we need to get, is when you get distracted away from what’s really important. And what’s important is putting in a performance in on Saturday night.”

Tickets are available for Saturday’s night game via Ticketmaster. Kick-off is 5:40pm WST.

Grab our $75 Force Flexi Membership, 4 games for the price of 3! And if you have a child under the age of 16, bring them along for free! Join here

SRP finals permutations: Williams calls for ‘obsessed’ Force focus
Cron rues Force mindset following away defeat to Reds
Force finals hopes in the balance as relentless Reds run riot
Cron wants 'must-win mindset' for crunch clash with Reds