Perth Sign new Waratah

The new Western Force Super 14 rugby franchise continued its aggressive recruitment drive Tuesday with the signing of New South Wales prop Gareth Hardy, the third Waratah poached by the Perth-based outfit in as many weeks.

The new signing undercut the Force’s earlier insistence that its recruitment of two overseas-based Australian players showed it was intent on reversing the drain of Australian players forced overseas in search of top-level opportunities.

The Force, which has angered rival Australian teams by targeting players up for contract renewal, announced it had secured lock David Pusey from Ireland’s Munster and fullback James Hilgendorf, now playing for provincial sides in New Zealand and Italy.

Force coach John Mitchell said Pusey, 26, who once played for the ACT Brumbies, and Hilgendorf, 23, a former Waratah, would not get a game in Australia without the new franchise.

“This is what the new team is all about — giving players an opportunity to play Super 14 Rugby when there was not enough room for them in the three existing teams,” Mitchell said in a statement.

“Apart from giving them the chance to play and develop their rugby at home, it also gives the Wallaby selectors a larger pool of talent to choose from.”

A few hours later, the team announced Hardy’s recruitment. It has already snapped up Waratahs’ hooker Brendan Cannon and fly-half Lachlan MacKay and Queensland Reds’ lock Nathan Sharpe.

Hardy’s signing brings to six the number of players who have publicly declared their allegiance to the new side, which enters the expanded Super 14 tournament next year.

Mitchell said last week that the player roster was about 14 but some signings were reluctant to go public because they feared their existing teams would give them a tough time.

The Force have been linked with two Brumbies’ players — reserve scrum-half Matt Henjak and winger Clyde Rathbone.

Reports say another four Reds players have inked contracts with the newcomers.

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