Samoa v Scotland preview: Dark Blues’ to seal quarter-final spot
- Win for Scotland would secure a spot in the quarter-finals against either Australia or Wales
- Victory for Samoa would give Japan the opportunity to sneak past the Scots’ into the final eight if they can beat USA tomorrow
- Ver Cotter recalls a lot of his big stars after resting them against the Springboks’
- Samoa makes seven changes
Samoa may be down and out, but they could yet play spoiler by beating the home nation and giving Japan a chance to progress against the USA. Scotland should have too much class however and ought to reach their seventh World Cup quarter-final with a win.
An unconvincing victory in their opening match against The Eagles proved costly for Samoa, as a bonus point from that match would have made this a winner takes all clash.
A bruising encounter with South Africa left them with too much to do against a rested Japan, and a win here looks like a tall order for a side that has scored just three tries in three games.
Scotland failed to reach the knockout phase for the first time in their history four years ago, and they will want to make sure that does not happen again.
Wily coach Vern Cotter opted to rest some key men against South Africa as he targeted this game, and a win is now vital to secure their passage and ensure that that decision does not end up proving a costly mistake.
The Pacific nation are without inspirational back Alesana Tuilagi, who has received a five-match ban for an act of foul play against Japan. He is replaced by Fa’atoina Autagavaia of French side Nevers; which is one of seven changes to the side.
George Pisi and Rey Lee-Lo join him amongst the backs, while there is an entirely fresh back row trio of Maurie Fa’asavalu, Alafoti Fa’osiliva, and Jack Lam. Hooker Ma’atulimanu Leiataua also marks his Rugby World Cup debut.
Players to watch
Fly-half Tusi Pisi has been a constant shining light in an often frustrating Samoa side, and he has contributed 12 points to the cause. Tries have proven hard to come by for the Pacific Nations at this World Cup, and they could have found themselves on the end of some very embarrassing scorelines were it not for their Number 10. If they are to have any chance of leaving everyone on tenterhooks for USA v Japan, then the eldest Pisi brother needs to lace up his scoring boots once more.
Scotland have been boosted by the fact that the knock received to Finn Russell’s ankle during the bruising encounter with South Africa has been shaken off, and he can start ahead of Duncan Weir in the number 10 shirt. The home nation will have two snipers on the field in the shape of half backs Russell and Greig Laidlaw, and we may well see the duo share kicking duties throughout the match. The Number 10 impressed against Japan and he will need to be on song as this could prove to be a cagey affair in the opening exchanges.
All the pressure will undoubtedly be on Vern Cotter’s men, as they look to avoid a repeat of four years ago, when they agonizingly missed out on the quarters following a narrow 16-12 defeat to England in their final pool game. Samoa will point to the history books which state despite Scotland dominating this fixture with seven wins to one, that does not tell the full story. There has been one draw between these nations, but the last time they met was two years ago, with the Samoans running out 27-17 winners on neutral ground in Durban. The three previous meetings were won by Scotland but only by a margin of seven points or less, with just one separating them in a thrilling 16-17 result in 2012. Scotland has scored twice as many penalties in their nine encounters and almost double as many tries, but they will be under no illusion that they will have a real fight on their hands here.
Scotland by 7
Scotland: 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Sean Maitland, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Matt Scott, 11. Tommy Seymour, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw; 8. David Denton, 7. John Hardie, 6. Ryan Wilson, 5. J Gray, 4. R Gray, 3. WP Nel, 2. Ross Ford, 1. Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Jon Welsh, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. Josh Strauss, 21. Henry Pyrgos, 22. Peter Horne, 23. Sean Lamont
Samoa: 15. Tim Nanai-Williams, 14. Paul Perez, 13. George Pisi, 12. Rey Lee-Lo, 11. Fa’atoina Autagavaia, 10. Tusi Pisi, 9. Kahn Fotuali’i; 8. Alafoti Faosiliva, 7. Jack Lam, 6. Maurie Faasavalu, 5. Kane Thompson, 4. Teofilo Paulo, 3. Census Johnston, 2. Ma’atulimanu Leiataua, 1. Sakaria Taulafo
Replacements: 16. Motu Matu’u, 17. Viliamu Afatia, 18. Anthony Perenise, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Vavae Tuilagi, 21. Vavao Afemai, 22. Patrick Faapale, 23. Ken Pisi
Date: Saturday, October 10
Venue: St James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle, Marius Mitrea
Television match official: Ben Skeen