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Hurricanes v Force: Preview

Wed 25th Feb

The Hurricanes will be playing to continue their unbeaten start to the 2015 Investec Super Rugby season when they play the Western Force in Perth this weekend.

After a successful two-match tour of South Africa in which they beat both the Lions and the Bulls, a buoyant Hurricanes side will run on to NIB Stadium on Friday night to meet the Force - at home for the first time this season.

Commitment and composure under pressure has characterised the Hurricanes' opening two wins of the season, while the Force have started their season on Australia's east coast with a big win and a disappointing loss.

The Force, traditionally slow starters to the competition since they joined in 2006, were anything but in the opening round when they disposed defending champions, the Waratahs, 25-13 in Sydney. However, this was followed by a 6-18 loss to an under siege Reds in Brisbane with a tropical storm swirling outside the stadium.

Hurricanes fans should expect another torrid battle against the Force, who aren't flashy but will tough it out for 80 minutes and attempt to wear down their opposition.

The Force are minus their season captain and flanker Matt Hodgson, last year's leading Super Rugby tackler, who suffered a pre-season hamstring injury. In his absence, No. 8 Ben McCalman is a superb close-quarter tradesman and his contest with his Hurricanes opposites should be a key feature of this match.

The battle for set-piece possession will likely go a long way to determining the outcome. The Hurricanes scrum went well against the traditionally strong Bulls pack last week, so they will be looking to continue to their early season ascendancy in this area.

After taking it to the Waratahs in week one, the Force were put under pressure by the Reds at scrum and lineout time, conceding a penalty try at scrum time to the Reds.

Hurricanes first five-eighth Beauden Barrett surpassed 600 career points in South Africa, and he is likely to meet an accomplished South African, Sias Ebersohn at flyhalf during the Perth clash.

Of the outside backs, Jason Woodward and Julian Savea have started the season well for the Hurricanes. Midfielders Ma'a Nonu and skipper Conrad Smith are the only two survivors in the Hurricanes squad from that which played their first match against the Force in 2006 in New Plymouth. The Force outside backs contingent includes talented centre Kyle Godwin, and speedster Luke Morahan.

The Hurricanes will be playing to win their first three matches of the season for the first time since 2010, and to beat the Force for the seventh consecutive time. The two teams didn't meet last year, but the Hurricanes beat the Force 22-16 in Wellington in 2013 and 46-19 in Perth on their last visit there in 2012.

The Hurricanes have their bye after this match, so another positive performance will put them in good stead ahead of their first home encounter against the Blues in Palmerston North on March 13.

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