'He's scored just under 50 per cent of their points so far this year': The dangerman the Western Force will be trying to shut down in Napier
The Western Force are treating their first foray into New Zealand territory in four years as somewhat of a home affair as they bid to strike a much-needed blow for Australia’s Super Rugby strugglers on Friday.
The winless Force face the undefeated Hurricanes in Napier sensing a real opportunity in their quest to break the Australian duck after a collective none-from-10 start in the new Trans-Tasman tournament.
While Super AU champions the Queensland Reds, Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and NSW Waratahs have all suffered heavy defeats in the opening two rounds, the Force have pushed the Highlanders and Chiefs all the way to be the best performed Australian outfit.
And crossing the ditch for the first time since being booted out of Super Rugby in 2017 holds no fears for Tim Sampson’s 2021 surprise packets.
“They’re excited,” Sampson said on Thursday.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to play here for a number of years and some guys have never travelled to play against New Zealand Super Rugby teams.
“But the last couple of weeks have proven that nothing rattles our guys too much. We saw that throughout the Super Rugby AU as well.”
With former Hurricanes favourite Jeremy Thrush now on their books, as well as 2011 All Blacks World Cup winner Richard Kahui, the Force are enjoying great support in Napier, a location not so homely for the Wellington-based Hurricanes.
“We’ve been made very welcome by the locals here so it’s wonderful,” Sampson said.
“We’re going to enjoy the opportunity to play at a ground that the Hurricanes don’t play at too often. They haven’t played here since February, 2020.
“Hopefully the travel will upset them as well, playing away from their preferred ground and facilities.
“So we’re looking forward to playing out at McLean Park and we’re going to tap into that and try and use it as a bit of our home base because the locals here are right behind us.”
"When we would do media, you’d say the old cliches, 'Yeah it’s going to be tough, there’s a lot of tradition in the rivalries, we’re expecting a fierce battle,' but we never went into those games on edge."
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) May 28, 2021
The Hurricanes boast the best attacking record in the competition of the five NZ teams, but have also conceded the most points.
“They really enjoy playing unstructured footy so they’re very, very dangerous,” Sampson said.
“They’ve got some big bodies out there on the edges. It’s where they like to strike – (Jordy) Barrett at the back. I said to the guys he’s scored just under 50 per cent of their points so far this year so they like to throw the ball around.
“Thirty-three per cent of their tries this year have come from unstructured footy but we’ve been outstanding with our defence all year and we’ve got to make sure we’re very clinical again on the weekend.”
– Darren Walton
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