James Stannard will play five-eight for the Western Force in this weekend’s trial against the ACT Brumbies in Darwin.
James Stannard will play five-eight for the Western Force in this weekend’s trial against the ACT Brumbies in Darwin.

Stannard to take charge

JAMES Stannard knows all about opportunity's cruel hand.

So he is not going to have to be asked twice if he is handed the Western Force's number 10 jersey for the coming Super Rugby season.

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"It's looking all right," Stannard said from Perth, where the temperature was closer to 30 than 40 degrees for the first time in about a week.

"I'm just trying to get used to the heat.

"We're starting a bit earlier to get out of it but they're still giving us a hiding."

Stannard is set to play five-eighth in his team's weekend trial against the Brumbies in Darwin.

For him it is a late start in the position, after a career spent predominantly at halfback.

Stannard became an emergency five-eighth for the Force last year when injuries hit, but made such a fist of it the coaches have been working during the off-season to turn him into the genuine article.

"We had a meeting at the end of last year," Stannard said.

"The coaches said they wanted me to play at five-eighth, so they wanted to develop my game going into this season."

Chances are he would have been behind New Zealander Willie Ripia in the pecking order.

That all changed earlier this month, however, when Ripia was sacked from the club for stealing from teammates to fuel his gambling addiction.

"When one guy leaves it opens up options for a couple of others," Stannard said.

He knows only too well, having played second or third fiddle behind other halfbacks in two stints at the Force and one at the Brumbies.

It also means he is not taking the spot as his just yet.

"It is probably a bit early to say that," the Karalee and St Edmund's College product said.

"No one, apart from maybe a few Wallabies, is guaranteed a run-on spot.

"I've just got to play well in the trials and hope for the best."

The soon-to-be 29-year-old is not likely to be wracked with nerves by the prospect of guiding his team around the paddock.

"I love it," he said.

"I really enjoy it at the moment.

"It gives me more freedom to run the ball, hog it a bit and play more with the outside backs."

It also gives him the chance to bark orders at his halfback and call the shots for the backline.

"I've been working a lot on my positioning in the field, especially in attack," he said.

"Knowing when to stand flat and when to get deeper, as well as kicking.

"At five-eighth you've got to do a variety of kicks."

Stannard acknowledges he will be carrying extra responsibility if he does get the number 10 jersey, but is looking forward to the challenge.

"They've definitely put a little bit more pressure on me now to perform," he said.

"I've got to lead the boys around and be confident with the calls.

"It's a big step up but I'm keen to take it.

"I've worked really hard at knowing my role, so it's easy for me to tell my teammates where to go."

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