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Force walk into unknown
Force walk into unknown

A Western Force loss in tonight's historic Super Rugby clash with newcomers Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth is unthinkable.

The Force are red-hot favourites but there is no doubt they are taking a dangerous walk into the unknown.

The Kings cannot be taken lightly, but there can be no excuse for anything less than an emphatic win.

Any other result would be embarrassing and put a massive hole in the credibility of the Force "re-launch".

But Force coach Michael Foley won't allow his side to be distracted by the expectations of others. "That will not help us," he said. "From our perspective the greatest pressure is to continue to develop as a team.

"Our expectations of ourselves are based on high standards and we go into every game with respect for the opposition whether it's a new team or a team that has won five championships.

"Any team can beat any other team on any given day."

The good news for the Force is that three big names - captain Matt Hodgson, second row Hugh McMeniman and winger Nick Cummins - are all back from injury.

Cummins comes in for Patrick Dellit, who suffered facial and ankle injuries in the 30-23 loss to the Rebels last week. Hodgson replaces Chris Alcock at openside flanker, and McMeniman comes in for Toby Lynn.

Alcock and Lynn move to the reserves.

Foley has picked a bench of five forwards and two backs, ready for a typically aggressive South African forwards assault.

He has left out fly-half Sias Ebersohn. Inside centre Kyle Godwin will move to pivot if playmaker Sam Christie is injured.

The Force must go into the game with the attitude and willingness to use the ball that marked the first 20 minutes against the Rebels but they also need to finish off the type of chances they created in that game.

Predictably, Kings captain Luke Watson is playing the underdog tag hard.

"Underdogs for this game? I think we will be the underdogs for the whole season," he said.

His father, Kings president "Cheeky" Watson, says the deck has been stacked against his club from the start but Foley has warned about the dangers of a Kings side with nothing to lose in front of 50,000 supporters.

Foley has seen only parts of the Kings' two trial games, in which they fielded two different sides.

"They played with enormous enthusiasm and at a very high tempo," he said.

"We'll be playing against a relatively unknown team but they've got some threats across the field, particularly out wide, with a couple of very quick wingers."

"Underdogs for this game? I think we will be the underdogs for the whole season.""Kings captain *Luke Watson *