RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About Samoa
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RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About Samoa

RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About Samoa

 

This year, we’ll see Samoa’s 7th tilt at the Cup. They’ve drawn well in their pool and will rate themselves a good shot at making the quarters for the fourth time. To do so, though, they’ll have to overcome more issues than most of their competitors. Can they overcome those issues and maintain their good form coming into the tournament?

1.  A Proud World Cup History

Samoa Wales 91

On their way to victory over Wales in ’91

Samoa have been to the quarters three times before – in 1991, 1995 and 1999. In 1995, they beat both Argentina and Italy to progress. But it was their massive upset over Wales in 1991 which holds the greatest meaning. That upset win meant (and means) a great deal to the proud nation, but was also a symbol that the “minnows” can topple the giants of the competition. That victory is the poster child for David vs Goliath in the Rugby World Cup.

Their 1999 victory over the Welsh again reinforced this idea. The Samoans got their chance at the Welsh again in 2011. They went down 17-10 and I suspect the Welsh breathed a sigh of relief.

It seems most of their players have been released from their European clubs and they are in good stead for another run this year.

2.  Off-Field Trouble in Paradise

England Samoa

The Poms showing support for Samoa in their recent employment dispute

The team has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons lately. Not for your normal football player nonsense, either. No, it’s not the team’s behaviour at all. It’s the behaviour of the Samoan Rugby Union that has been questionable. The country’s Prime Minister, who doubles as the president of the SRU, is Tuilaepa Sailele. He became publicly embroiled in a dispute with the players late in 2014 and throughout this year over conditions for the players.

Oddly, the players didn’t have great concerns about their match payments, which is a pittance compared to other nations. They were more concerned about governance, appropriation of finances, their match schedules and lack of communication  from the union. For their troubles, Sailele branded the players “spoilt children” and declared that the matter had been resolved without consulting the players – underlining the point the players made. The period saw touching displays of solidarity with the team from opponents England and South Africa, who showed their support by praying with the team on the field at their games.

3.  Jack Lam

Jack Lam

Jack Lam will be a key to victory for Samoa

Jack is no stranger to Australian Rugby fans. The flanker was born in NZ, but spent his childhood in Canberra, where he played for St Edmund’s and made the Australian Schools team twice. He now plays for Bristol in the UK, but spent the four years before that in Super Rugby for the Hurricanes. He is also the cousin of Samoan legend, Pat Lam. Pat was in the team for all three of those World Cups where Samoa made the quarters and captained the second legendary win over Wales. That’s an important point, because if you believe what Pat has to say, Jack is a much better player than he ever was.

Lam has 15 tests under his belt for Samoa. He only has one try, but he’s not there to score points. He’s there to make the big hits in defence and bend the line in attack. And that, he does. Look for him to be forcing the turnover ball that the likes of the Pisi brothers will turn into points.

4.  Ken Pisi

Ken Pisi

Pisi makes a break for Northampton

Ken is one third of Samoa’s flying Pisi brothers. The Saints winger will be joined by his older brothers George in the centres and and Tusi at fullback. Ken has only six test caps for Samoa, but he’s racked up 77 games for Northampton in the Aviva Premiership and scored 16 tries in that time. Many of those games have been played alongside brother George and Samoa will be looking for the pair to combine to put points on the board at the tournament.

Pisi’s footwork is second to none and his acceleration is off the charts. His mercurial running skills make breaks out of nothing and tries out of breaks. He is certainly one of the young players to watch at this year’s Cup. For an example of the sort of footwork you can expect, have a look at this finish.

5.  The Tightest Pool

Samoa v SA 11

“I don’t think that’s meant to come off, mate.” Maurie Faasavalu tackling Franz Steyn at RWC2011

For mine, all bets are off for the runner-up in pool B. You’d be out of your skull if you think that South Africa won’t win the pool. But with Samoa and Scotland in the group and the Eagles and Brave Blossoms looking to cause and upset, second place could go any way. Samoa will be looking to knock off Scotland, of course, but they will also have to fend off a tough and hard-working Japan and an improving USA team to ensure their way through. The USA made life tough for Samoa in this year’s Pacific Nations Cup and will this year press their own case for a spot in the quarter finals.

Samoa’s last outing against Scotland was in 2013 and saw them down the Scots 27-17. Prior to that, Scotland seemed to have the wood on the islanders, though their losses have always been close ones. Samoa has some good form running into the tournament out of the Pacific Nations Cup, having beaten the USA in the process and leaving Japan at the bottom of their pool. I think this might be another year in which Samoa can press for an upset, just as they did in 1991 and 1999.

  • Duncher

    I love watching Samoa play the saffas. They always have massive battles. Looking forward to it

    • John Tynan

      The Chiropractor ironing out Saffa 5/8 in ’03 will live long in my playback reel.

  • Brendan Hume

    Excellent write up – looks like Pool B will host some great opportunities for some fantastic rugby. It’s not beyond any of these teams to get one over SA if the Boks need to rest any players and take anyone lightly.

  • Jack

    Is 16 tries in 77 games good for a winger..? I would have thought it wouldn’t be too hard to come by a better strike rate than that…

    That aside, I love watching Samoa play, especially back when the chiropractor was around. Hopefully Jack Lam can provide that bone rattling entertainment this year…

    • npivag

      Not a flattering stat, but he spent his early career coming off the bench in junk minutes for 2 seasons while they blooded him.
      He’s the goods IMO, I’d love to see him have a 1 or 2 season crack at Super right now, as oppose to his brother Tusi who gave it a go when he was past his best (he was something special at the 2011 WC, he played so well so flat to the line).

    • Chris M

      As npivag points out below, he has spent a large amount of time on the bench. That said, Pisi’s big pluses aren’t really about his try-scoring ability as much as the ones he sets up.

      The tries scored stat is a bit redundant here, but it’s there because pretty much all of the backs in the reviews get their try stats mentioned.

      And I miss the Chiropractor, too. In fact, I’m going to go watch a highlight video right now.

  • npivag

    This pool is so exciting. Would be suprised to see something along the lines of Samoa beating Scotland but losing to Japan or the US, like Tonga is 2011 to France/Canada.

    • Braveheart81

      This is definitely the weakest pool and I agree that should lead to lots of interest around who progresses. My money is on Scotland who seem to be improving whilst Samoa seem a bit off the pace at the moment.

      • npivag

        I agree, Scotland look like they’re improving, particularly since they brought Hardie and Strauss in. But, Scotland always look like they’re about to turn the corner and they almost never do.

  • Patrick

    I agree that this is the most exciting pool. Really hard to call.

  • Dadeo

    Could’ve added a 6th thing to know in there: Make sure you wear your gum guard when playing these okes. If the game seems lost, they go for the kill (literally) with head high & late tackles flying in from anywhere.

    • Chris M

      I could have added 20 things. But that wouldn’t have been one of them.

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Mrs Mac thinks Chris talks about Rugby far too much. She's probably right. If he's not coaching, he's watching. And if he's not doing either, he's jibbering incessantly about it. He has also been named as a finalist in the Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year for 2015. Mrs Mac remains unimpressed.

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