Tempers have flared at Western Force training this week, and coach Michael Foley couldn’t be happier.
With competition for spots heating up, hookers Nathan Charles and Heath Tessmann got caught up in a bit of argy bargy, as did scrumhalves Alby Mathewson and Ryan Louwrens.
No damage was done, and Foley praised the fighting spirit of the group.
Now, Foley is urging his charges to carry that mongrel into Saturday night’s Super Rugby clash with the in-form Highlanders in Perth.
“There’s been some feisty training, which is good,” Foley said on Friday.
“It’s healthy stuff at this point of the year. Everyone’s fighting to be in the team.
“The guys who aren’t in the starting 15 have gone hard at the guys who are. That brings the best out of everybody.”
Louwrens edged out Mathewson for a starting spot in the recent win against the Waratahs, and he has again pipped the experienced Kiwi for the No.9 jersey.
Foley said Mathewson’s mentoring work had been a major reason behind Louwrens’ ability to flourish since making his debut last month.
“Alby and Ryan had a bit of a ding-dong at training this week and I told Alby I blamed him for that because he was modelling Ryan on himself,” Foley said with a laugh.
“Ryan wouldn’t be where he is now if it wasn’t for Alby. Alby took Ryan under his wing during the pre-season.
“A lot of older players would feel threatened by a younger player. But Alby feels confident enough in his own game to know what he has to offer.”
The Force are riding a wave of confidence after pulling off a 18-11 win over the Waratahs a fortnight ago.
Last week’s bye gave Force players the chance to freshen up.
And they have set their sights on pulling off another upset victory against a Highlanders outfit that boast one of the best outside back divisions in the competition.
Winger Waisake Naholo looms as the Force’s biggest danger, with the 24-year-old scoring a competition-high eight tries so far this season.
“You don’t want to give him the ball in a lot of space,” Foley said.
“We just need to be proactive. Rather than wait for him, we have to dictate the terms and the space he’s got to operate in.”
The Force have their own attacking weapon in the form of skipper Matt Hodgson, who has scored three tries in three games since returning from a serious hamstring injury.
“Over the last two years, I think he’s taken his game to another level,” Foley said.