Force recharging, reviewing and refocussing
The Western Force squad moved to Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales north coast for some rest after four Super Rugby AU matches in as many weeks. It’s a welcome opportunity for the Force family to recharge its batteries, review progress to date, and refocus attention on forthcoming matches.
We caught up with head coach Tim Sampson to discuss the experiences on the road over the past month and to get his thoughts on the challenges ahead.
What are the positives to come out of the past four matches?
Given we have only played five competitive matches this year, there are many positives to take out of the first four matches. I believe when we have got it right and got into our groove we have proven we are more than competitive. It has also enabled us to find out where we are at as a team, but also importantly, individually. Some guys have really put their hand up and proven they can play at this level consistently week-in, week-out.
The Brumbies defeat was tough, but the team was never out of its depth over the four games.
We were a bit shellshocked in the Brumbies game. Conceding two early tries within the first four minutes of the game may have rattled us a bit however for the following 76 minutes we held them to only 12 points. Unfortunately, we were our own worst enemy that night and turned over far too much possession. We have not got our first win yet, however, to lose the other three games by nine, seven and five points when we haven’t been at our best proves that we are certainly doing something right.
To address these areas, do you agree that you need to build on the mental resilience that the team has developed over the past four weeks?
I couldn’t agree more. It’s never an issue with this group though. For what the club and some individuals have been through over the past three years or so, being headstrong is ingrained in them, and it’s contagious! If there are six, seven or eight players who are resilient in their day to day actions it will filter through the entire squad which is of huge benefit. We are mentally strong and whatever is thrown at us we deal with and then work hard for positives outcomes.
What has been your most pleasing moment from the past four weeks?
When we ran out for the first game against the Waratahs, I had that feeling of, ‘we are back’! It wasn’t just for those involved in the actual game. It was for everyone involved in the club back home, our members, supporters, stakeholders, community rugby and junior rugby players who are aspiring to play for the Western Force.
It has also warmed my heart to see the guys embrace our commitment to family, and the impact of the team banner with photographs of our ‘why’ on it, which they often look at whether it is hanging in our hotel team room or in the change rooms before our games. We talk a lot about our families back home. It is one of our pillars at the club and we live by it daily.
How difficult has it been to not play at home?
Extremely difficult. We want to play in front of our loved ones and there is no better feeling than running out in front of the Sea of Blue back in Perth. They are very special to us.
How have the new signings settled in?
I don’t think you can underestimate the pressure on them coming in and only having limited training sessions with us. We made it as smooth a transition for them as possible. Jono Lance has been consistent for us, Kyle Godwin had an outstanding game against the Rebels last week, Richard Kahui had some nice touches in his first start last week and Ollie Atkins, Pek Cowan and Nick Frisby have all had positive impacts also. There are good signs and I am sure we will see more of it as the competition continues.
What are your goals for the next four matches?
The goal is to make the finals by finishing in the top three. To do that we will have to win four out of four, maybe three out of four games. If we continue to improve each week then I am sure we will put ourselves in winning positions.
How would you rate the standard of rugby in Super Rugby AU?
I think it’s been very good. There have been some unfair comments about the current standard of rugby in Australia. Some really good footy has been played by all teams as we have seen by the results. There is not much between the teams and that is evident by the close results which have included two games that have gone into extra time.
End of interview.
The Force are back in action next Friday (14 August) when they take on the NSW Waratahs at Cbus Super Stadium.