Force to return with a bang and a coconut

Justin Chadwick

Fireworks, dancing, Wolfmother, seven-point tries, and coconuts - welcome to World Series Rugby, where billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest wants as much entertainment off the field as there is on it.

The Western Force will make their highly-anticipated comeback on Friday night when they host the Fiji Warriors at nib Stadium.

The match is on track to be a sellout, with only a few hundred tickets remaining before it reaches its 18,200 capacity.

Friday's clash will be the first of seven matches the Force play this year, before World Series Rugby transforms into a proper league next year.

The Force's future appeared dim when they were axed from Super Rugby at the end of 2017, but Forrest has poured in millions to revive them.

Next year, Forrest hopes to launch an eight-club competition taking in teams from the Asia Pacific region.

Before that takes shape, Forrest is using this year as a platform to experiment.

His plan is to make the game more attractive - both on and off the field.

World Series Rugby will feature a host of experimental rule changes, including seven-point tries for attacks that are started within the team's defensive 22m.

Line-outs can be taken as quickly as teams want, while one-minute limits will be set for scrums.

There'll also be plenty of excitement off the field too.

Australian rock band Wolfmother will play before the game and at halftime, while there will also be dancing displays, light shows, and fireworks.

And the stadium will also embrace a Fijian theme this week, with coconuts and kava on offer.

Force chief executive Nick Marvin said the seven games this year would give Forrest and his team the opportunity to experiment and get things right in time for next year.

"It's to get the product on and off the field right, to get the broadcast right," Marvin said.

"We're learning. We want to try to change the game so that it is a compelling night out."

When the Force were axed by Rugby Australia, club legend Matt Hodgson feared for the game of rugby in Western Australia.

He couldn't help but shed a tear at the prospect of his children choosing Australian rules football over rugby because there was no professional WA rugby team they could aspire to.

But that has all changed since the Force were taken off life support.

"My kids are now saying again, 'Daddy, I'm going to play for the Force', which is pretty exciting and pretty rewarding to all the effort we're putting in behind the scenes," Hodgson said.