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Cross questions Force's attitude

By David Beniuk 18/02/2009 07:03:24 PM Comments (0)

Frustrated centre Ryan Cross has conceded the Western Force's capitulation to the Blues in their Super 14 opener could have been about attitude, but says that doesn't mean recent off-field dramas are to blame.

The Force led 14-3 in the first half at Subiaco Oval last Friday before their Auckland-based opponents piled on four tries - at least two of them against woeful defence - to win 25-19, a scoreline which flattered the home team.

The Perth side were embroiled in pre-season tensions between coach John Mitchell and his players and their first-up Super 14 effort had some quick to proclaim the trouble-prone franchise was unravelling.

Asked about the players' desire last Friday, Wallaby centre Cross said: "You can always look at that.

"Goal-line defence is about attitude and maybe our attitude was a bit down so we've had a bit of a razz about that.

"Goal-line defence and kick-chase are two big things about attitude and I think this week is going to show our attitude is right back on."

Cross said the "razz" had come mostly from the players themselves.

"We were leading for most of the game last week and it's just frustrating how we let it slip like that," he told AAP on Wednesday.

"We've played three games this year, two trials and a comp game and we've been leading each of them and been run down. I don't know what it is.

"Hopefully if we get in front this week we can knuckle down and kick away because it's been a frustrating start to the year."

But Cross denied any lax attitude was linked to the Force's off-field issues, which resulted in an independent inquiry and a self-confessed change to Mitchell's approach.

"Obviously it was a big distraction in the off-season and now there's no excuses," Cross said.

"We can't use that as any sort of excuse or problem because we know what we've got to do, we like playing with each other, we're good friends so there's no reason why we can't do it for each other."

In good news for the Force, Cross declared himself a certain starter against the Cheetahs at Subiaco on Friday, despite an AC injury that will have him playing in pain for possibly the next month.

"I've had them before and hopefully I can deal with it for the rest of the season," he said.

"It's just a bit of a niggle, for the next three of four weeks I have to deal with a bit of pain training and playing."

The Force have made seven changes, five to the run-on side - with teenage Wallaby tourist James O'Connor to start at inside centre and new signings Josh Valentine and Ben Castle back from injury to make their first starts for the Perth side.

Cross said O'Connor, who can also play fullback and five-eighth, would perform a second playmaker's role alongside No.10 Matt Giteau.

"I think (No.12's) a good spot, especially playing outside someone as experienced as Gits and I've been around for a while so hopefully we can help him out a bit," he said.

Western Force: Cameron Shepherd, Nick Cummins, Ryan Cross, James O'Connor, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Josh Valentine, Richard Brown, David Pocock, Tamaiti Horua, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Pat O'Connor, Ben Castle, Tai McIsaac, Gareth Hardy. Res: Luke Holmes, Kieren Longbottom, Tom Hockings, Matt Hodgson, Chris O'Young, Josh Tatupu, Scott Staniforth.

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