Rob Kearney's 'subtle hints' helping Western Force coach
Western Force coach Tim Sampson has been tapping into the wisdom of his international recruits as he aims to build a title-winning game plan. The Force have added a glut of international stars to their roster during the off-season, with Irish fullback Rob Kearney and Argentinian scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli among the big-name signings.
Argentinian trio Tomás Lezana, Santiago Medrano, and Domingo Miotti have also joined, along with Wallabies duo Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Robertson.
Former All Blacks Richard Kahui and Jeremy Thrush have re-signed from last season.
The Force were winless and finished bottom of the ladder in last year’s Super Rugby AU campaign.
Although the early betting markets have tipped the Force to be among the wooden spoon favourites again in 2021, optimism is building within the franchise of a breakthrough finals appearance.
Sampson is keen to promote an expansive and free-flowing game plan, and has also been open to suggestions from his new recruits.
“I’d be silly to ignore the calibre of players that have come,” Sampson said. “I’ve already had really good discussions with Rob Kearney, who has thrown some little ideas at us and subtle hints, which is great.
“The Argentinians – someone like Cubelli is a world-class player. For staff and fellow players we need to tap into these guys and see what they think around certain things. Maybe we can adjust something slightly.”
The arrival of battle-hardened international players has opened up a major selection battle. The biggest battle that looms is for the starting No.9 role, which both captain Ian Prior and 76-Test star Cubelli are fighting for.
Australian U20 World Cup player Michael McDonald is also in the scrumhalf mix.
“It’s going to be a headache, along with other positions,” Sampson said.
“What we’re blessed with there is they’re different styles of players, which is great.
“If you have a halfback that comes on at the 60-minute mark for ex ample and plays a different style of footy to the guy that’s been out there previously, it can be a handful for the opposition.
“Ian Prior has been outstanding for the club for many years. He was someone who was unlucky not to make that initial Wallabies squad last year.”
The Force begin their season against defending champions the Brumbies on February 19.
After the Super Rugby AU campaign, the Force will compete in the new trans-Tasman competition.
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