Force get Mathewson boost
Sydney - Super Rugby surprise package Western Force received a major boost on Friday when they announced a new two-year deal for former All Blacks scrumhalf Alby Mathewson.
As a foreign "marquee" player, the 28-year-old needed special dispensation from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to remain in Perth for a second season this year and will now stay with the Force until the end of 2016.
Mathewson is currently out of action with an ankle injury but played the first seven matches of the season when the Force rebounded from losing their first two encounters to win five straight for the first time in franchise history.
Two further victories after Mathewson's injury mean the Force go into this weekend's round 15 action - they play South Africa's Lions on Saturday - in seventh place in the standings, just a point off the playoff positions.
Mathewson, who won four caps for his native New Zealand in 2010, said that although there had been interest from elsewhere, staying with the Force had always been his preferred option.
"I was always holding out hope that it would work out this way and I'd stay," Mathewson said.
"I love being part of what we have at the Force and it's great to be a part of an actual 'team'.
"I know it gets talked about a bit in the media, but it's great to be a part of the culture of this team, everyone is really tight as a group and there's no egos."
Five of Mathewson's team-mates were rewarded for the stellar season with places in the 32-man Wallabies squad for June's series against France on Thursday.
Loose forward Matt Hodgson, who has made a Super Rugby leading 179 tackles this season, and prop Pek Cowan were recalled after three years in the international wilderness.
Number eight Ben McCalman will be looking for a place on the back of the Wallabies scrum after bulking up for this season, while hooker Nathan Charles, who suffers from Cystic fibrosis, will be out to win his first Test cap in June.
Rangy winger Nick "Honey Badger" Cummins is the incumbent on the Wallabies left wing after scoring three tries in the November tour of Europe.
After winning just four of 16 matches and finishing third from bottom of the standings in 2013, this season's form has been quite a turnaround
Mathewson thinks it will be no flash in the pan.
"I love where the team's heading. Obviously we had a pretty disappointing season last year but I knew we were better than what we showed," he said.
"We've had some success this season and while we're only the second year in, we've made some great gains and I believe we're only going to get better."