“I gave Justin a heads-up about the fact a number of our guys are from Sydney and he touched on past experiences of Western Australia being successful in different sports, and having that desire to go over there and dish up to the east coast big time.
“He’s a West Australian through and through and so proud and passionate about WA. You could hear a pin drop in the room, he told some really good stories about what it takes to win, especially when you’re perceived to be the underdogs.
“The blokes were still talking about it after training today and a few guys came up to me and said, ‘Gee, he’d be a great guy to have a beer with.
“He talked for about 30 minutes then stayed and watched our preview meeting. He got right into it, had his fists clenched as he talked.”
The Force will arrive in Sydney on Friday with a good mix of stalwarts and newcomers, with six high-calibre new recruits in Kyle Godwin, Jono Lance, Greg Holmes, Nick Frisby, Pek Cowan and Ollie Atkins.
Their arrivals from all over the UK and Europe have upped the experience and quality of Sampson’s squad, tempered by the reality of quarantine-affected physical preparations. Lance had to serve two quarantine periods – on the east coast and in Perth – after returning from the UK.
But there is a strong sense of the occasion generating its own adrenalin. This will be the Force’s return to the Super Rugby family after a long and – for supporters at least – anguished exile.
Even the match-up is heavy with symbolism. The Force trounced the Waratahs 40-11 in Perth in their final game in the 2017 Super Rugby season.
“It certainly will be special and I won’t hide away from that fact,” Sampson said. “I don’t like going deep into the past and I wasn’t here at the time but it is very special without a doubt and I am just so stoked for the players. That’s when I get goose bumps, knowing what they’re going to be involved in for the first week back is really special.
“Then for the fans and supporters, it’s hard to explain – and I didn’t know what it was like over here previously – but they’re a very tight, very vocal membership and this will mean a lot.”