Western Force to play invitational series

Billionaire Andrew Forrest has announced a series of seven invitational matches for axed Super Rugby club Western Force this year, grandly titled World Series Rugby (WSR).

Western Force get invitational series

Western Force get invitational series

The matches, to be played at Perth's nib Stadium, will pit a new-look Western Force team against Pacific nations Fiji, Tonga and Samoa plus Hong Kong and Super Rugby outfits the Melbourne Rebels and Crusaders between May and August.

A Japanese team is likely to round out the competition.

The clash with the Rebels will pit the Force against their former coach Dave Wessels and many former teammates, who signed thereafter the Force were axed from Super Rugby by Australian rugby's national body.

Forrest promised WSR would evolve into an international competition for the Asia Pacific region in 2019, something he had been trying to get up for 2018.

"The focus for 2018 is to reintroduce and reinforce professional rugby in Western Australia for the benefits of our grassroots community, our players and our fans," Forrest said.

"In 2019, the WSR will evolve into a high-calibre, international competition with the goal of making rugby the community-building sport of Asia."

New initiatives and changes in the rules will be trialled during the WSR, including a try being worth 10 points and a time frame for scrums and lineouts.

Former Wallabies great Michael Lynagh, who is serving as an advisor, believed an innovative revamp would make the game "faster and more exciting".

"We want to keep the ball in play and really reward the skills," he said.

"There is a real support and groundswell to bring rugby to the forefront, where it was a little time ago.

"If we have to change the game then let's do that because it is a competitive environment here in Australia with all the other sports."

Western Force chief executive Nick Marvin confirmed negotiations were ongoing for the WSR to be televised on free-to-air television.

Tuggeranong Vikings coach Tim Sampson will lead the squad, which contains 11 former Force players and some familiar names in former Springboks centre Jacque Fourie, Peter Grant, Chris Alcock and Rod Davies.

Western Force squad: Aj Alatimu, Chris Alcock, Marcel Brache, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Rod Davies, Andrew Deegan, Tevin Ferris, Jaque Fourie, Josh Furno, Peter Grant, Chris Heiberg, Rodney Iona, Feleti Kaitu'u, Brad Lacey, Kieran Longbottom, Ryan Louwrens, Cameron Orr, Harrison Orr, Leon Power, Ian Prior, Harry Scoble, Tom Sheminant, Brynard Stander, Elliot Turner, Clay Uyen, Fergus Lee Warner.

WSR invitational matches in 2018: May 4 v Fiji, May 13 v Tonga, June 9 v Rebels, June 22 v Crusaders, July 13 v Samoa, Aug 10 v Hong Kong, Aug 17 TBA.

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