Settled line-up a boost for Force
Settled line-up a boost for Force

Coach Michael Foley has the luxury of a settled side as Western Force aim for a record four straight wins when they face Queensland Reds in Brisbane tomorrow night.

Foley has made just the one enforced change with No.8 Ben McCalman returning from suspension to replace Hugh McMeniman (broken collarbone). Angus Cottrell moves from the back of the scrum to blindside flanker.

Veteran Force captain Matt Hodgson, 32, who is playing some of the best rugby of his career and is a possible bolter for a return to Wallabies colours, said keeping a settled line-up brought confidence to the side.

"The last three games we have been going well. It is good to get combinations going," he said.

"You feel a connection between each other and we know what everyone is going to bring. Every- one has confidence and belief."

Hodgson's 12 turnovers are the most in Super Rugby this season and his 83 tackles are the second highest in the competition.

He has also crossed the line three times as the Force's leading try scorer.

Hodgson played the last of his six Tests three seasons ago but with David Pocock out and Liam Gill sidelined, he is high in the reckoning for the next Wallabies series.

Hodgson said he did not take much notice of statistics and another international cap was a long way from his thoughts.

"I'm just enjoying my football. Once you get to the back end of your career you never know which game is going to be your last," he said.

"I go out with that mentality and it seems to be working.

"Last year was tough, taking on the captaincy and results not going our way.

"I'm enjoying the role and I know the direction I'm going in.

"Defence has always been an area of the game I've enjoyed. I've worked hard on it over my whole career but this pre-season I focussed on little things like foot placement, being more dominant and creating more line speed."

Hodgson said his pack needed to shut down the Reds forwards to stop their halves Will Genia and Quade Cooper having an influence on the game.

"That's where it starts, trying to stop the momentum of their forwards to make it a lot harder for the likes of their nine and 10," Hodgson said.

"They will be looking at ways of manipulating our defence but we've done a lot of work on that."

Reds outside back Lachie Turner has failed to overcome an ankle problem and coach Richard Graham has named utility Ben Lucas at full-back.

Jamie-Jerry Taulagi makes his debut on the wing.

The West Australian

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