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Thread: Western Force coach Tim Sampson facing tough call on team’s scrum-half

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    Western Force coach Tim Sampson facing tough call on team’s scrum-half

    Western Force coach Tim Sampson facing tough call on team’s scrum-half
    The West Australian
    Wed, 3 November 2021 2:15PM
    Nick Taylor

    Getting three into nine is not as easy as it seems for Western Force coach Tim Sampson as he plans for the new Super Rugby Pacific season.
    It sounds relatively simple, except the three are all outstanding nine’s, scrum-halves Issak Fines-Leleiwasa who is back at the club that gave him his first break, former junior Wallabies captain Michael McDonald and Force stalwart Ian Prior.
    Sampson’s decision could very easily define whether a career will be kick-started into the international arena.
    Sampson admitted it will be a tough call.
    “All decisions are tough and this will be one of the toughest,” he said.
    “All three are exceptional players and all offer something a little bit different which puts us in a good position.
    “They all add value in their own way.”
    Fines-Leleiwasa, the fastest scrum-half in Australian rugby, signed his first professional contract in Global Rapid Rugby.
    He played in the 2019 GRR showcase season, was in the National Rugby Championship winning side and won the Nathan Sharpe player-of-the-year medal.
    He moved to the Brumbies, looking for Super Rugby experience before the Force were invited back into the competition, but found himself behind Nic White and Ryan Lonergan and his blistering pace saw him pushed out to the wing in a couple of games.
    He is now back, determined to hold down the key role at the scrum base, and still holds the dream of a Wallabies jumper.
    “It’s a fresh start. It was the right decision to move and the right decision to come back,” Fines-Leleiwasa said.
    “You want a challenge in a team environment.
    “It makes us better. We don’t want anyone to be safe.
    “We’ve all got to get a good pre-season under our belts and see what happens.
    “It’s every person’s dream to play at the top.
    “Hopefully I can get consistency and push for that opportunity but there’s a lot to do before the end goal and I don’t want to look too far ahead.”
    The former Australian schoolboy and youth Olympic Games representative has been working on his basic skills.
    “In the past I’ve liked to back my speed and vision around the ruck but a big focus has been on areas like passing off the deck and my kicking game.
    “There’s a lot more to the half-back than just running.”
    Fines-Leleiwasa, 26, rejoined the Force squad this week as they started a two-month pre-season training block with Sampson planning a fast, expansive running game that should suit Fines-Leleiwasa.
    “We have had a bit of a backs session and you can tell the way the attack is flowing already,” he said.
    The Force are expected to open next season on February 19 with the grudge match against Melbourne Rebels at HBF Park, two week after a planned trial match against Queensland Reds to Geraldton.

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Good problems to have

    I'd be playing Sideshow Bob on the bench for his versatility, he can play 9, 11 & 14 for sure with a likelihood of going OK at 12 and maybe 10 (might be a bit short for a good 15, but Beale is being considered for 15 at the Wallabies, so you don't have to be a GOOD 15 I guess!) That being said, there's no reason you can't have Fines starting at 9 and then shifting to the wing to bring somebody off the bench, but that would mean potentially losing a very good winger who isn't injured - not necessarily the best decision in the world to cover a maybe of whether the halfback replacement isn't up to scratch.

    I'd cement that as his spot with a brief to earn his start off one of the other 2, I think he'd thrive in that environment and that can only be good for the team

    Stitch has spent plenty of time off the bench with Cubelli in the team last year and it didn't seem to do him any harm, but I'd say it's his time to either start or wear a suit. The real conundrum will be whether McDonald is up to starting a Super Rugby game or not.

    If it's not then there's a big decision to make, do we start with Fines, Prior on the bench and blood McDonald gradually or do we take the risk of having McDonald on the bench, knowing that one of the others will miss out entirely?

    Me, I'd call for a focus on the future, start the year with Fines/McDonald in some order and have Prior waiting in the wings in case it all goes to custard.

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    Player chiraag's Avatar
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    I'm hoping to see Fines starting, with Macdonald on the bench from the get go. They're both exciting prospects and it'll be great having Ian there to guide them, as well as being a really good option in case of injury or if Macdonald isn't quite up to standard after a few runs off the bench.
    Hopefully Macdonald will look the goods off the bench and it will end up being a real area of strength for us.
    Fines versatility should also prove extremely useful whether he's starting or on the bench as well.

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    Veteran Sheikh's Avatar
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    Isn't Prior able to play both 9 and 10? That versatility would be a plus, and his experience and cool head coming off the bench with 20 to go to close out a match could be very useful (that's if he doesn't win the starting spot).

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheikh View Post
    Isn't Prior able to play both 9 and 10? That versatility would be a plus, and his experience and cool head coming off the bench with 20 to go to close out a match could be very useful (that's if he doesn't win the starting spot).
    True, but he wouldn't be a first (or even second) choice 10 with the young blokes we've stolen from the Brumbies.Hi might well be 1st choice 9 with no 10 cover on the bench, but I think even the "no cover on the bench" bit is a stretch.Yes his game management, and importantly his kicking game are massive votes in his favour.He outshone cubelli in a bunch of game just through instilling calm into the team.Definitely an asset, but we need to continue building for the future and that will mean blooding the next generation now, not in three years Tim when stitch is thinking of hanging up the boots for good

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    Immortal Contributor The InnFORCEr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wholetruth View Post
    The Force are expected to open next season on February 19 with the grudge match against Melbourne Rebels at HBF Park, two week after a planned trial match against Queensland Reds to Geraldton.
    Sounds like a road trip to me

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    Legend Contributor .X.'s Avatar
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    For those that remember we had a similar discussion last year.

    I was vocal in my belief that Prior was not being up to Super Rugby standard and was predictable and provided no spark to the team.

    A few months later - I wrote up an apology. I was wrong.

    I believe that Prior is ideal for the reserve bench as a replacement 9. He should be utilised in the last 20-30 minutes of the match to close out the match for the win. His demeanor and level-headedness underfire are exactly what the Force needs at that time.

    You cant train experience.

    Fines and McDonald are our future. But they are going to need to earn their spots thru hard work and onfield actions.

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    Give it to Macca

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    I'm looking forward to the competition for ALL positions in 2022.
    I'm hoping that Michael McDonald has a successful return from what has been a debilitating injury.
    Fantastic to have Issak back in the West.
    Value the experience and cool head of Ian Prior.

    We have coverage for each position for good reason.
    Each of the 3 players mentioned have different skill sets to bring to the game.

    It's not a case of which one is better than the others.
    I'd like to see game plans and player mixes which match the opposition giving us the best chance to win the game.
    I'll know this is happening when it's not the same starting XV and same game plan week-on-week.

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by .X. View Post
    For those that remember we had a similar discussion last year. I was vocal in my belief that Prior was not being up to Super Rugby standard and was predictable and provided no spark to the team. A few months later - I wrote up an apology. I was wrong. I believe that Prior is ideal for the reserve bench as a replacement 9. He should be utilised in the last 20-30 minutes of the match to close out the match for the win. His demeanor and level-headedness underfire are exactly what the Force needs at that time.You cant train experience. Fines and McDonald are our future. But they are going to need to earn their spots thru hard work and onfield actions.
    I'm not making the same mistake (I remember actually agreeing with you on that one) it's not about whether he's suited to the role anymore it's about him being a senior back and we don't want to make the same mistake as the tahs rebels and wallabies by not having a succession plan.Certainly the start is deserved, but in a couple of years time the other two should be our 9 combination, if they see NO game time, that'll chase it elsewhere and then we'll be stuck with an aging 9 who has a million games under his belt and untested kids backing him up.Let's be smart, it'll make us the only professional rugby club of our kind in australia

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