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Melbourne - Former South Africa and Australia cricket coach Mickey Arthur will lead a new talent programme at Western Force in a bid to boost the struggling Super Rugby team with promising home-grown and foreign players.
Perth-based Force joined Super Rugby in 2006 but have never made the playoffs of the southern hemisphere tournament while battling to nurture and retain talent in a state where rugby has a low profile compared to dominant rival football code Australian Rules.
Faced with a player drain to other sports and higher-profile clubs in Australia's eastern states, Force have padded their roster with South African and New Zealand imports in recent years and over a third of the players on their pay-roll are foreign-born.
“Having had an interest in rugby over a long period of time, it's very exciting to be involved with a programme like this,” South African Arthur, a Perth resident, said on the team's website (rugbywa.com.au) on Friday.
“Perth is a dynamic, wonderful place to live with a growing appetite for rugby, and this opportunity will excite a lot of young players not only in Perth and Australia but around the world.”
Arthur, 45, was head coach of Australia's national cricket teams until he was sacked shortly before a test series against England last year.
He will oversee the “Future Force” programme which would receive between five and 10 players in the first year and 10-15 in subsequent years, RugbyWA CEO Mark Sinderberry said.
“We're certainly a state that's faced with a number of unique challenges predominantly by virtue of our isolation, and that requires us to take a different approach with regard to a number of our operations, including recruitment,” Sinderberry added.
The Michael Foley-coached Force, who finished 13th in the 15-team competition last year, play their opening match of the season against the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on February 23. – Reuters