On Friday, August 10, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announced they would be shutting down the Western Force franchise based in Perth, Western Australia.
The announcement came after SANZAAR contracted the Super Rugby competition for the 2018 season, and decreeing South Africa would be cutting two teams, whilst Australia would be cutting one.
It has been a painfully drawn-out saga for the ARU and Aussie rugby fans, but now the decision has arrived, it is in this writer’s opinion that we shut this upsetting chapter, move on, and continue to do what’s best for rugby.
With that in mind, there is a group of current Wallabies that played for the Force this season, all of whom will need new homes for next year.
There is plenty of talent in that group, so let’s begin speculation on where some of them may land for next year.
Note: During the writing of this article, the Melbourne Rebels signed prop Tetera Faulkner.
Tatafu Polota-Nau: Overseas
First-choice Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau had made it no secret he would look outside the country if the Western Force were axed. It’d be unlikely to see him change his mind now.
At 32, Polota-Nau’s injury-ravaged career will begin to catch up with him soon and with 71 caps under his belt, he’s eligible to take an overseas offer and continue to play for his country.
With Stephen Moore retiring, the Wallabies’ hooking ranks will be depleted, meaning there’s every chance TPN continues to be selected, perhaps behind his former understudy at the NSW Waratahs, Tolu Latu.
It’s a no-brainer Polota-Nau will look overseas now his province has been cut from Super Rugby. He may even opt to retire, but unless a team like the Queensland Reds makes him an offer too good to refuse, he’s gone.
Adam Coleman: NSW Waratahs
Hulking lock Adam Coleman played one game for New South Wales in 2013 before signing with the Force and becoming Australia’s best second rower.
Now, there’s every chance that he’ll return to the Waratahs, especially given the Sydney-based side is losing the equally monstrous Will Skelton to Saracens.
Making this potential move more compelling is the fact fellow starting Australia lock Rob Simmons has signed with NSW for next season, meaning they could cultivate their partnership at a provincial level and take it on to the international stage.
The Melbourne Rebels is also an option, but the exposure on offer with the Tahs would likely be too good to turn down for Coleman.
Bill Meakes: NSW Waratahs
2017 was a breakout year for 26-year-old centre Bill Meakes, culminating in a call up to the Aussie squad for The Rugby Championship.
Heads were turned when Meakes signed with the Western Force from Gloucester in the English Premiership, having not been sighted in Australian rugby since playing in the Sydney Rugby Union with Norths in 2012.
It was quickly evident Meakes had become a far-improved player, possibly the Aussie Conference’s best midfielder, and with Rob Horne moving to Northampton for 2018, a move home beckons for the Manly local.
NSW have some talented young mids on their books – such as David Horwitz and Irae Simone – but the prospect of having another international at the club is more than enough for the Waratahs to make a move.
Dane Haylett-Petty: ACT Brumbies
Over the past two seasons, there has hardly been a more influential Force player than Dane Haylett-Petty, who has recently been challenging Israel Folau for the mantle of the Wallabies’ best fullback.
Whilst the ACT Brumbies do have two talented young 15s on their roster in Tom Banks and Aidan Toua, it’s unlikely either of them would sway ACT from making a move for Haylett-Petty.
The Brumbies were the “best” team in the Conference this season, but missing hugely influential players such as David Pocock and Christian Lealiifano they lacked the class to compete in the finals.
Getting those two back for a full season, and DHP from the Western Force, the team from the nation’s capital could easily run away with the Australian Conference in 2018.
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