Force brace for Stormers arrival

NICK TAYLOR, The West Australian April 1, 2010, 2:07 pm

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Western Force head coach John Mitchell believes tomorrow's Super 14 opponents the Stormers are a bigger threat than their South African counterparts and competition leaders the Bulls.
The Force went down 28-15 on Saturday to the unbeaten Bulls but Mitchell said the Stormers, who have the best defensive record in the competition had more "X Factor" than the side from Pretoria.
"I clearly see them as a tougher proposition than last week," he said.
Mitchell has made a number of changes to the side that takes on the side from Cape Town at ME Bank Stadium, welcoming Wallaby back-rowers David Pocock and Richard Brown in the game day squad for the first time since they were both injured in the season opener against the Brumbies.
Pocock, who ripped the tendon off the bone of his left middle finger goes straight back onto the open side and Brown, who dislocated his right shoulder, is on the reserves bench.
"It's good to have their experience back," Mitchell said.
"Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman have carried a huge load (in the back row) so it's good to share the load".
Mitchell said the back row, when fully fit, was always a big strength.
"We're getting closer to becoming a stronger combination but time's not on our side," he said.
Another major change in the pack is Pek Cowan back in his specialist role at loosehead after stepping into the hooking role during the Force injury crisis.
Mitchell has rested front rower Nic Henderson who he said had carried a huge work load in recent games.
"Pek helped the team out in the hooker role when we were having some troubles early in the season," Mitchell said.
"We owe it to him, he is a specialist loosehead and did get selected to the Wallabies last year as a result of that. He brings strength to us in that area.
"We want to give Nic a chance to recondition so we have two loose heads that can go on the tour to New Zealand and South Africa with really good match conditioning."
Mitchell has gone for a big centre pairing of Mitch Inman and Ryan Cross with teenager James O'Connor moved to fullback.
"Last week we were a little shabby in terms of first phase attack," he said.
"We didn't really ask a hell of a lot of questions of the opposition. I don't think you need to be too fancy in this competition. It's just a matter of having a very good platform and getting on that gain line and having some fun.
"We will want to see a greater accuracy and improvement in our first phase on Friday night. We want to become a lot more clinical in that area.
"Hence the reasons for the backline we've put out."
Scrum-half Chris O'Young who has retained his place over the injured Brett Sheehan brings a different game to the Force with a sharp pass from the ruck and sniping skills.
"He's brought a high tempo to our game, speed of pass, the ability to serve that pass but also the ability to ask questions of the close defenders when there is momentum," Mitchell said.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has made four changes to his side.
They are coming off the bye but have lost key pair Joe Pietersen and Wicus Blaauwfrom the 21-8 victory over the Cheetahs two weeks ago.
Winger Sireli Naqelevuki will start with Gio Aplon switching to full-back. Blaauw's place at prop goes to JC Kritzinger.
The other two changes see scrum-half Dewalt Duvenage and lock Anton van Zyl drop out in favour of Ricky Januarie and De Kok Steenkamp.
Coetzee said: "The Force were good against the Bulls and there is no doubt that we will face a team that is hungry for a win in front of their home crowd.
"There are no easy games in this competition and we will need to have the same intensity we showed earlier in the competition if we are to succeed."