MacKay replaces Giteau in Force XV - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

MacKay replaces Giteau in Force XV

15/04/2008 04:31:05 PM Comments (0)

Western Force had no choice but to leave star playmaker Matt Giteau out of the team for Friday's Super 14 clash with Queensland - similarly, coach John Mitchell says his side has no choice but to beat the Reds on Friday night.

Although the Wallaby playmaker looked in sensational physical shape at training on Tuesday morning, it is his cognitive function Mitchell is keen to protect following Giteau's third significant head knock of the season against the Waratahs last weekend.

With Lachlan MacKay named as Giteau's replacement at flyhalf, Mitchell said there was no reason they could not win without their key player.

"We control our destiny from here onwards, so we have got no choice," Mitchell said.

"We have still got an opportunity, so we do not have any choice but to play and have a crack.

"We have still got it stored away that we were called "Queensland B" there at one stage, but that is all negative motivation.

"If we have to rely on that as motivation, well clearly we should not be involved in professional rugby. We will be above that."

Having made his comeback into the side via the centres, MacKay will be called on to call the shots against the Reds, having done so for 60 minutes against NSW.

With injuries bedeviling his Force career from his first game, MacKay sporting a painful-looking eye infection was not the best start to an important week.

And with the jibes of Reds coach Phil Mooney also ringing his ears - who said MacKay did not have the kicking, passing or running game of Giteau - the 25 year-old admitted he was likely to be targeted by the Queenslanders.

"We really miss Gits, he is definitely our general out there and our leader on the field," MacKay said.

"I probably don't bring that individual brilliance that he does to the game, but hopefully through some communication and leadership I can provide those outstanding boys in the backline outside me.

"I would not be surprised if they send some heat our way, but that is to be expected in a local clash.

"This is it for us, if we go down this weekend it ends our chances of getting to the finals."

Mitchell said in Giteau's absence, MacKay would have to bring similar leadership qualities to the talented Force backline.

"He seems be absorbing the workload quite well, and his greatest asset is his leadership and his ability to work with others," Mitchell said.

"He is very calming on the group when he is there."

The only other change to the Force starting line-up will see Haig Sare begin his first Super 14 match of the season, after his broken jaw and eight week suspension following the brawl with Matt Henjak.

Nick Cummins makes way for Sare, with the other major change seeing 17 year-old James O'Connor drafted in as cover for Mackay on the bench.

The Nudgee college product, already compared to both Giteau and Tim Horan despite his tender years, will return to his home state for his first experience of Super 14.

"He has got a bright future, is extremely talented, and it is important he has a good time and enjoys the experience, as opposed to putting an enormous amount of pressure on himself," Mitchell said.

Western Force: Cameron Shepherd, Haig Sare, Ryan Cross, Scott Staniforth, Drew Mitchell, Lachlan Mackay, Chris O'Young, Richard Brown, David Pocock, Scott Fava, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Tom Hockings, Troy Takiari, Tai McIsaac, Pek Cowan. Res: Luke Holmes, AJ Whalley, Sam Wykes, Tamaiti Horua, James Stannard, James O'Connor, Nick Cummins.

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