The Western Force veteran tasked with stopping the Fijian Drua's rise
Western Force coach Tim Sampson will look to veteran halfback Ian Prior to bring a calming influence as they look to counter the helter-skelter play of Fijian Drua in their Super Rugby Pacific match on Saturday.
The Force are aiming to rebound from a disappointing 22-17 loss to the NSW Waratahs last round while the Drua have their tails up after beating Melbourne Rebels then taking their clash with the Queensland Reds down to the wire after scoring three tries in five minutes.
The Drua have the ability to conjure a lethal attacking raid out of broken play and Sampson said 31-year-old Prior could help settle his side in the Leichhardt Oval match.
“You have to be pretty smart how you play against the Fijians; they’re a highly-skilled team and love playing tempo and love the ball in the field of play,” Sampson said.
“Ian is a good calming influence on our guys and hopefully we see that this weekend.
“If he plays to his strengths I’m sure that will benefit the team.”
Prior has replaced livewire Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, while Jake McIntyre will start at 10 ahead of youngster Reesjan Pasitoa in a new halves combination.
“We’ve said it from day one it’s great to have different style of players in the nine and 10 jersey,” Sampson said.
“Jake’s earnt a starting opportunity this weekend, he’s been contributing really well off the bench … but in saying that Reesjan has been outstanding.
“We just want to take a bit of pressure off Reesjan this weekend.”
Among other changes Brynard Stander returns to the starting side at No.8 while prop Greg Holmes gets his first start.
Backs Kyle Godwin and Toni Puku are both missing after head knocks.
Sampson said there had been an “honest” review of their performance against the Waratahs which he felt was an opportunity lost with the team now eighth.
“The main focus is to roll up sleeves and get in some hard yakka – we don’t have to bring in a new playbook.
“The players take ownership of it and I think we will see the response on Saturday.”
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