LIZZIE AYERS AND CALLUM GORDON
Ben McCalman will be the only Western Force representative playing for the Wallabies in tonight’s monumental clash at Twickenham.
The back rower is on the bench and, with a brutal encounter expected between the trans-Tasman rivals, his on-field services are likely to be required.
After winning the Force’s player of the year award this year, McCalman signed a three-year contract with the Perth-based franchise.
Flyhalf/inside centre for the Force and home grown Perth player, Luke Burton, said it was important for the growth of the sport in Western Australia to have McCalman, originally from the New South Wales city of Dubbo, in the Wallabies team.
“I know there was competition from the Waratahs to try and get him back home but it really shows his commitment to the Force and WA rugby and he’s a great role model for future players,” Burton (pictured) told InkWire at Perth’s City Beach today.
ALL BAR ONE
McCalman has been an integral part of the Wallabies’ campaign, missing only one game in the tournament – the first pool match against Fiji at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Rugby WA General Manager Adam Crane said the Force did well to sign McCalman.
“It can be only a wonderfully positive thing for community rugby in WA,” Crane said.
“Ben is an outstanding individual.
“He’s been around professional rugby and the Wallabies for a long time now.
“His experience and his knowledge of what is required to be an elite professional at the highest level in itself is a positive for any young player to aspire to.”
WALKIN’ THE WALK
Both Burton and Crane attested to McCalman’s positive influence over the team despite his quiet, unassuming demeanour.
“It’s probably not so much what comes out of his mouth but more his actions and the way he conducts himself in a professional environment,” Crane said.
Burton said McCalman had led from the front every game this year.
“He doesn’t talk too much, he just leads by his actions and his actions are showing on the field and also off the field in training sessions,” he said.
“He’s been pretty much the powerhouse for us.”
‘SMASH THEM OFF THE PARK’
Burton said tonight’s game would be a tough one, but the Wallabies have a good chance.
“It’ll be high intensity, really fast flowing and high contact … I reckon Australia will win by two points,” he said.
“Australia’s defence in the World Cup this year … their line speed and aggression has really got them over the line.
“If they can continue that into shutting down the New Zealanders’ offloads and footwork …”
Crane said he wouldn’t be Australian if he didn’t think the Wallabies would win.
“We have already beaten the All Blacks this year,” he said.
“I think we’ll win by under three [points], with Bernie Foley going to a goal on the bell to win it.
“I’m sure [coach] Michael Cheika will do a lot to fire them up beyond belief to try and smash them off the park.”