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In form centre Ryan Cross will undergo surgery on a fractured cheekbone today and was unavailable for selection, handing 21 year old Melbourne Storm league recruit Josh Tatupu his first opportunity in the starting XV.
Cross will be confined to the sidelines for three weeks after surgery, which rules him out of any further matches for the Emirates Western Force this season.
Tatupu has sat on the reserves bench on five occasions this season, but has just one cap to his credit, making his one and only Super 14 appearance in Week 3 against the Lions in Johannesburg.
Tatupu joins a relatively inexperienced backline which includes 18 year old WA product Dane Haylett-Petty on the right wing.
Haylett-Petty made a 16-minute cameo appearance on debut against the Chiefs last weekend after Nick Cummins sustained a broken leg.
The Durban-born Hale School product will make his first starting XV appearance while fellow local junior Kieran Longbottom has been retained on the reserves bench after a solid performance on Super 14 debut in the epic one-point victory over the Chiefs.
Longbottom, the only born and bred West Australian in the squad, occupied the loosehead prop position for all but 10 minutes of last Saturday night’s clash when Pek Cowan succumbed to a badly dislocated thumb.
Prop Gareth Hardy returns to the starting team for the first time in eight weeks after recovering from ankle ligament damage suffered during the Week 4 loss to the Crusaders at Subiaco Oval.
Hardy played for the Firepower RugbyWA Academy in their 113-7 curtain-raiser victory over the Singapore National team last Saturday.
Richard Brown returns to his familiar Number 8 role after starting on the reserves bench against the Chiefs last weekend, while first try-scorer Matt Hodgson shifts from the back of the scrum to the blindside flank.
Flanker Sam Wykes rejoins the reserves bench after overcoming a minor hamstring strain and has dual reason to celebrate following his selection in the Australian Under 20s squad alongside Emirates Western Force teammates Haylett-Petty and David Pocock earlier this week.
Winger Haig Sare also makes a shock return to the match 22 after a faster than expected recovery from ankle ligament damage.
Back-rower Scott Fardy has jetted off with the team to Wellington as 23rd man.
Overall head to head: Played 2, Hurricanes 1, EWF 1.
Last met: 9 March 2007, EWF 18 defeated Hurricanes 17, Subiaco Oval, Perth (EWF’s first win at Subiaco).
Emirates Western Force v Hurricanes
Friday 9 May, 2008
Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ
Kick off: 7.35pm (3.35pm WA time)
Emirates Western Force
1. Gareth Hardy
2. Tai McIsaac
3. Troy Takiari
4. David Pusey
5. Nathan Sharpe (c)
6. Matt Hodgson
7. David Pocock
8. Richard Brown
9. James Stannard
10. Matt Giteau (vc)
11. Drew Mitchell
12. James O’Connor
13. Josh Tatupu
14. Dane Haylett-Petty
15. Cameron Shepherd
16. Luke Holmes
17. Kieran Longbottom
18. Sitaleki Timani
19. Sam Wykes
20. Chris O’Young
21. Scott Daruda
22. Haig Sare