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.