World Series Rugby no gimmick: Sampson

by AAP

Western Force coach Tim Sampson says people are starting to realise World Series Rugby is no gimmick, and he expects more star players to sign on next year.

The Force's squad was bolstered this week by the signing of former All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush on a two-year deal.

He joins World Cup-winning Springbok Jaque Fourie in the Force line-up.

Jeremy Thrush in action for Gloucester. Photo: Getty ImagesSampson said Thrush's arrival was more proof that players were taking a growing interest in World Series Rugby (WSR).

"I think it's out there now that it's not a gimmick," Sampson said.

"We're fair dinkum here. What the club is doing and aspiring for - we want to go all the way with this.

"Jeremy has played under some of the best coaches in world rugby, alongside the best players in the world.

"I think it gives our club and World Series Rugby some credibility, that such a player wants to come and be a part of it."

World Series Rugby kicked off with a bang last week, with a sellout crowd of 19,466 watching the Force beat the Fiji Warriors 24-14.

Six more exhibition games will be played this year, before a six or eight-team competition is formed next year taking in teams from Asia and the Pacific region.

Andrew Forrest was front and centre on Friday night. Photo: Getty ImagesBillionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest is the mastermind behind WSR, and he intends to grow it into a powerful competition.

The Force's next match is on Sunday at nib Stadium, where they'll take on a Tongan representative side.

Thrush will arrive in June in Perth, and is expected to suit up for the June 22 clash with the Crusaders.

The 33-year-old made 12 appearances for the All Blacks from 2013-15, earning man-of-the-match honours in 2014 in a 24-16 win over Scotland.

Thrush made 110 appearances for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby. He has spent the past three years playing for Gloucester in the English Premiership.

"He's a natural leader," Sampson said.

The Western Force take on Tonga on Sunday May 13, kicking off at 4pm local, 6pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and 7TWO in WA.