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Sampson highlights 'interesting stat' that gives Force hope against Crusaders

By AAP
Kyle Godwin. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Western Force flanker Kane Koteka will miss the rest of the Super Rugby Pacific season with a foot injury.

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Koteka suffered the injury in last week’s 22-18 loss to the Blues in Perth.

The 28-year-old won the team’s best and fairest award last year, and his absence is a big blow to the Force’s hopes of landing a top-eight berth.

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The Force have made two changes to the starting line-up for Saturday night’s clash with the Crusaders in Perth.

Backrower Tim Anstee has been included to start in the No 8 jersey, with Ollie Callan moving to the right flank. Winger Byron Ralston replaces Toni Pulu (hamstring).

Force coach Tim Sampson has praised his team’s resilience in the face of disappointment following a series of heartbreaking losses this season.

The Force’s four-point defeat to the ladder-leading Blues was their fifth by six points or less this year.

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Sampson’s men suffered heartbreaking one-point losses to both the Rebels and Brumbies, and they went down to the Waratahs by five points. In round one, the Force conceded a late try to lose to the Brumbies by six points.

The run of close losses has seen the Force slip to ninth spot with a 2-7 record, but they are still in the hunt for a top-eight berth.

“They’re in a good space,” Sampson said of his players. “I take my hat off to them. We’ve had so many tight losses. It’s five games now that have been by [six] points or less.

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“It’s a pretty tough crew, and they’re desperate to get a win.”

The Force finally reversed their notorious slow starts last week, and also managed to hold the Blues scoreless in the second half to almost steal the win.

“An interesting stat that came out was it was the first time the Blues had been held scoreless in the second half for four years,” Sampson said. “We still lost, but we take a lot of confidence out of that against the top team.”

Force: Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu’u, Santiago Medrano, Ryan McCauley, Izack Rodda, Fergus Lee-Warner, Ollie Callan, Tim Anstee, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Reesjan Pasitoa, Manasa Mataele, Bayley Kuenzle, Kyle Godwin, Byron Ralston, Jake Strachan. Reserves: Andrew Ready, Angus Wagner, Bo Abra, Jeremy Thrush, Alex Masibaka, Ian Prior, Jake McIntyre, Richard Kahui

– Justin Chadwick

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