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Thread: Force with plenty to play for

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    Force with plenty to play for



    29/02/2008 8:53:53 PM
    Chris Pike

    Sportal




    The Western Force concludes its three-week South African tour to begin the Super 14 season against the Lions in Johannesburg early Saturday morning (Australian time) and a win will see the Force return to Perth with two victories despite a tumultuous start.

    The Lions were thrashed by the Blues last weekend and the Force's one-point win over the Cheetahs should give them confidence to get over the line, but coach John Mitchell is wary after the two previous meetings between the teams.

    "I don't focus on the outcome or how many wins we should get, but just take each opposition as they come and see what we need to do to win. We expect the Lions to be very physical after last week and direct," Mitchell said.

    "They beat us at home last year and scored in the last minute to force a draw the year before, so we treat them with lots of respect."

    Mitchell went to South Africa with a plan to give his full squad of 26 a good opportunity to show their ability and that will continue with plenty of changes this week.

    Cameron Shepherd returns to fullback after a knee injury. Drew Mitchell moves back to left wing after a standout performance filling in for Shepherd last week.

    Gareth Hardy, Luke Holmes and Troy Takiari form the third different starting front row that Mitchell has used, while Matt Hodgson gets his first start of the season at openside flanker.

    Late recruit Tamaiti Horua will also make his first start for the Force at No. 8. James Stannard will again start at scrum-half with Chris O'Young still not in the Force's squad.

    Despite the win last week, the Force dominated possession and should have won comfortably. Making the most of dominance in possession has been a big focus in preparing for the Lions this week.

    "The game could have gone either way, but we persevered for the longest and we probably deserved to win that game," he said.

    "The amount of possession we had and the number of times we breached their defence and didn't score is a concern, but it's nicer to have that problem than not create any chances. Hopefully can rectify why we aren't getting to score more tries."
    The Matt Henjak-Haig Sare incident and subsequent sacking and suspension each received was an obvious disruption to the Force's start to the season. Mitchell has been happy with the squad's reaction to it and a two-win return from the tour will be a superb result.

    "We have focused on what is best for the team and we have to uphold the trademarks that are important to our club," he said.

    "We haven't got away from those things since we left. It's just a problem between those two; it has nothing to do with the team. We have moved on and as a result people have tightened up their standards."

    As for the Experimental Law Variations, Mitchell believes everyone should take a deep breath and see how they develop, but he would like to see the tackle area cleaned up.

    "I like the law changes. Everyone has been a little bit impatient of where they are heading, but the only part that concerns me is in the tackle area," he said.

    "There is still too much slow ball there and we expected the product to be quicker there. If we can clean that up we will get an even better product and I'm sure over time people will adapt and become better at it."

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    2 from 3, well done boys, excellent (although hard-fought) win...

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