Mitchell to focus on the Force’s scrum


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Following the Force’s month long tour of England coach John Mitchell is convinced that that the Western Force need an international-standard tighthead prop to be a Super 14 contender.

Now that Australia Super 14 teams are allowed to select two foreign players per team Mitchell said he had made up his mind which positions to fill with the two import players allowed next season.

‘Tighthead and hooker, they’re the priorities,’ was his forthright assessment in The West after the Force returned from a demanding English tour in which they played four Premiership sides.

The Force managed to beat Jonny Wilkinson’s Newcastle but lost to Saracens, Northampton and Leicester.

‘They’re the first two places I’ll look at,’ Mitchell said. ‘If we want to succeed in Super 14, we have to apply greater pressure at scrum time.’

Mitchell said that the Force were already looking at the availability of candidates although this had been held up before the Australian Rugby Union had rubber stamped the move to allow foreign players in their teams.

The Force had to release their recently acquired winger Caleb Brown after a recurrence of his hamstring woes, but Mitchell is confident he has the players to adequately fill the position.

‘Haig Sare had a very impressive tour and Nick Cummins will be back,’ he pointed out.

Other standouts on tour were loose forwards David Pocock and Matt Hodgson, with the former ‘outstanding’ as a leader, according to the coach.

‘Junior Pelesasa and Josh Tatupu were reliable in the centre, James O’Connor learnt a lot about playing No. 10 and it was good to see Pat O’Connor play three full games at lock after having no rugby for nearly two years,’ Mitchell added.

‘The tour was all about developing younger players and improving our depth, which is why we chose to play the best teams and not easy opponents.’

The only match in which the Force were outclassed was the final fixture, in which Leicester powered to a 48-7 win.

Mitchell pointed out the Tigers had 12 Test players in a starting XV assembled at a cost of $16 million, compared with the $1 million Force team.

‘We did OK against them in the scrum, which was pleasing,’ he said.

Force players are now on annual leave and will return for fitness testing on October 6. Those who do not impress will enter a conditioning program several weeks ahead of those in good shape.

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