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Hardwick keen to further Wallabies case

NZN 25/05/2017 Vince Rugari

He was just six years old when George Smith began his illustrious rugby career and 14 when Scott Higginbotham pulled on a Queensland jersey for the first time.

Now, back-rower Richard Hardwick is plotting to bring both of them down - not only for the Western Force's sake, but for his own Wallaby ambitions as well.

The Force take on the Reds on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium in a must-win clash for both sides as they eye off an automatic Super Rugby finals berth.

With the June Test window just around the corner, it's also one more audition for Hardwick, who had been mentioned earlier this month by coach Michael Cheika as a possible Wallabies selection smoky.

All but unknown before his breakout season for the Force, the 22-year-old can further his international claims with a strong performance against veterans Smith and Higginbotham, two of Australian rugby's premier back-rowers.

But while the Namibian-born Hardwick is embracing the opportunity, he hasn't always been so enamoured with them.

"I watched Smith do his thing when I used to support South Africa. He used to tear us up," Hardwick told AAP.

"I used to not like him so much but now I've come to appreciate how good he is and what he's done over his career."

Hardwick's preferred position is openside flanker but he has been playing for the Force at No.8, a position that appears to be there for the taking for Australia.

Higginbotham could well be Hardwick's direct competition for Test selection.

Smith suggested earlier this week his form would be too strong for Cheika to ignore, even though he had not invited the 30-year-old to any of his mid-season Wallaby meet-ups.

"He's got a skill set that doesn't match up to anyone else," Hardwick said.

"He's put up some special performances and he can do some special things."

Hardwick has been named on a stacked Force bench, which also includes a host of current or former Wallabies in Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pek Cowan, Tetera Faulkner and Luke Morahan.

It's a clear show of intent from coach Dave Wessels, who is demanding a full 80-minute display after an embarrassing capitulation at home last week to the Highlanders.

The Reds are fresh off the bye and hunting back-to-back wins for the first time since round 17, 2014.

However, they've lost four of their past six matches against the Force - including their most-recent meeting in round two.

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