Spirited Force to be reckoned with: Prior

Justin Chadwick
Ian Prior is one of a handful of Western Force players with previous Super Rugby experience

Western Force captain Ian Prior is confident his team will not be a pushover in Australia's new rugby competition, and says the format's rule tweaks could even play into their hands.

The Force were unceremoniously booted out of the Super Rugby ranks in 2017, but the Perth-based franchise has been welcomed back with open arms to the new-look domestic league.

The Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, ACT Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels, and Force will battle it out for national pride during the 10-round competition and subsequent finals, with the first match kicking off on July 3.

The Force will start as massive underdogs given their lack of recent Super Rugby experience.

Only about a dozen Force players have played Super Rugby, with Prior himself, alongside Jeremy Thrush, Kieran Longbottom, Chris Alcock, Brynard Stander, Marcel Brache and Heath Tessmann among the most experienced.

But the 29-year-old Prior said the Force's title-winning campaign in last year's National Rugby Championship (NRC) proved that they have what it takes to beat more-fancied opponents.

"Absolutely we'll be competitive," Prior said.

"Anyone can sit here and say whatever they want (about us), but until the first ball gets kicked and teams are playing against each other, no one really knows.

"If you look back to NRC and the success we had there against some teams that were stacked with Super Rugby experience - you look at the Vikings, Brisbane City, Queensland Country, Melbourne Rising - and we did well there.

"It's an exciting opportunity for the young guys that haven't experienced it yet. And for the older campaigners it's a good test to measure up against."

The new Australian competition is set to introduce rule tweaks to encourage a more attractive brand of rugby.

The Force have adapted to a series of new laws in Andrew Forrest's innovative Global Rapid Rugby competition, and Prior thinks that flexibility will give his team an edge.

"It can be something we can use to our advantage," Prior said.

"We've changed between Global Rapid Rugby rules and NRC rules a couple of times a year for the past few years, so we've been able to be flexible and adapt on the run there and change our game to suit those laws.

"It's a pretty exciting initiative to see that new laws will be trialled in this competition."

The Force have a bye in the first round of Super Rugby AU, which kicks-off on July 3 with Queensland Reds against NSW Waratahs, followed by ACT Brumbies hosting the Melbourne Rebels on July 4. The remainder of the fixtures are expected to be announced on Thursday.