Western Force blindside flanker Michael Wells loved the glimpses of “high speed, high skill” in Saturday’s 21-19 pre-season trial win over the Queensland Reds and says that’s the style the team wants to play in 2024.
The Force raced out to an early 13-0 lead after a Harry Potter double in the opening 30 minutes in warm conditions at Ballymore Stadium before the hosts rallied to lead 19-13 at the final change in the contest, played as three 30-minute periods.
But the WA side claimed the win with Fortescue Academy winger Ronan Leahy scoring in the left corner, before veteran Ian Prior’s penalty goal from straight in front in the dying minutes put the Force ahead.
While it was only a pre-season trial game, there were plenty of good signs for the Force, with glimpses of style combined with the grit to secure a rare away win.
“Happy with the result but obviously the process takes a bit of work,” Wells told Stan Sport post-game.
“We started well in terms of how we want to play, high speed, high skill, but we opened the door.
“The Reds came back to their credit. It’s a positive to close it out but definitely some of the process stuff we’ll look at.”
Wells pointed to the Force’s opening 25-30 minutes as the style the coaches are demanding of the players ahead of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, which starts against the Hurricanes on Friday 23 February at HBF Park (with tickets going on sale earlier this week via Ticketmaster).
“Hopefully more of what we saw in that first third,” 30-year-old Wells said. “We want to play high speed, high skill.
“That’s the type of footy that we really want to represent for our state. Hopefully more of that (in 2024) for 80 minutes than just 30.”
The experienced back-rower was in the starting XV alongside three new signings; Ben Donaldson, Tom Franklin and Will Harris.
Wallabies fly-half Donaldson, in particular, impressed Wells who also pointed to veteran recruit Nic White’s impact in pre-season despite missing Saturday’s game with a minor shoulder issue.
“I like the way Donno runs the game,” Wells said. “Obviously a very cool head. You saw that at the World Cup, the experience he brings, running in from 10 is great.
“Whitey back home. Just the voice he’s bringing and the leadership, he’s really good with that. Particularly those two guys running a game is awesome.”
Prior to the Force’s Round 1 game against the Hurricanes, the club will host the ACT Brumbies in their second pre-season trial game on Saturday 10 February at Revo Fitness Stadium in Claremont.
The game starts at 5pm and doubles as the Club’s annual Fan Day, with free entry from 4pm with a range of activities around the ground including opportunities to meet the players for selfies and autographs, plus there will be food trucks, activations, bar facilities and much more.