Western Force coach Tim Sampson says his team are still hurting over last season’s winless campaign, declaring the franchise has a point to prove this year.
The Force’s exile from Super ranks came to an abrupt end last year courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they finished the inaugural Super Rugby AU campaign last with a 0-8 return.
The glum win-loss record didn’t truly sum up the progress made and the fighting spirit on show, with the Force coming close on numerous occasions to snatching a win despite the hardship of spending the entire campaign on the road.
The Force have since embarked on an impressive recruiting spree that has netted Argentinian internationals Tomas Cubelli, Tomas Lezana, Santiago Medrano and Domingo Miotti, along with Irish legend Rob Kearney.
Wallabies duo Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Robertson have also joined the cause, while former All Blacks Richard Kahui and Jeremy Thrush have stayed on board.
Despite the significant boost in star power, the Force are still ranked last in the title race in some betting markets.
Optimism within the squad is strong, and the Force are determined to put on a good show this year, starting with Friday night’s showdown against the Brumbies in Perth.
“We didn’t win a game last year and that still hurts,” Sampson said.
“We’ve got a lot to prove, I think more so here in WA. We’re not too worried about what’s going on over in the east coast.”
Friday’s match at HBF Park will mark the Force’s first Super game in Perth since they beat the Waratahs 40-11 on July 15, 2017.
Force players are conscious of what the match will mean to the ‘Sea of Blue’ fan base, and Sampson says keeping emotions in check this week will be a big focus.
“I think the fans crave it. We can’t ignore the last few years,” Sampson said.
“Whatever the capacity is there at HBF Park I’m sure we’ll get it.
“I’m sure there’ll be emotion later in the week for different reasons. There’ll be guys debuting for the club, there’ll be guys who have been here for six or seven years.
“With the different emotions, you need to control that in a pretty careful way. But you’ve got to bring it into it at some stage to get the juices flowing. We have to get the timing right there.”
The Brumbies are the defending champions and favourites to win this year’s title.
But the Force are full of confidence after pushing the Brumbies all the way last week in a 29-28 trial match loss.
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