Preview: Samoa v Scotland
Fri, 22 Jun 2012 07:58
Scotland will look to secure an unprecedented Southern Hemisphere clean sweep in a one-off Test against Samoa on Saturday.
Belying their status as Six Nations wooden spooners, Scotland opened their tour by upsetting world number two Australia 9-6, then followed up with a hard-fought 37-25 win over Fiji last week in sweltering conditions.
Victory over Samoa, who sit one spot above Scotland at number nine in the world rankings, would complete a Southern Hemisphere whitewash, the first time the Bravehearts have ventured south of the equator without losing a tour match.
"That's something we are striving for," coach Andy Robinson said. "It's our next Test match. We have to focus on winning each Test and we go into Saturday with confidence that we can take on a strong Samoan side."
Scotland have defeated Samoa in six of their seven previous meetings, with the closest result a 15-15 draw at Murrayfield in 1995.
But Samoa gave them a scare in their last meeting at Aberdeen's Pittodrie Stadium in 2010, when the Scots needed a last-minute penalty to win 19-16 in snow and freezing temperatures.
Robinson said that match demonstrated Samoa's ability to mix power with flair.
"On the back of (Scotland) beating South Africa and in conditions that were utterly alien for the Samoans we were drawing 16-all with one minute to go at Pittodrie and we were lucky enough to get a penalty to win the game," he said.
Scotland have also never faced Samoa on the islanders' home turf, where the hosts will be keen to make the most of a rare chance to impress their fans in front of Northern Hemisphere opposition.
Robinson has made three changes to the starting line-up that faced Fiji, bringing in Richie Vernon at No.8 and Chris Cusiter at scrumhalf in a sign the Scots will seek to run the ball against the hard-tackling Samoans.
Sean Lamont has been called in to give Scotland extra power on the right wing, while Dutch-born Tim Visser, who scored two tries on debut against Fiji, retains his spot on the left wing.
Samoa enter the Test match-fit after going through the Pacific Nations Cup undefeated, clinching the title with a 27-26 win over host nation Japan last week.
The islanders, who are in a rebuilding phase as new coach Stephen Betham looks to bring through new talent with an eye on the 2015 World Cup, are set to welcome back flyhalf Tusi Pisi, who skipped the Pacific Nations Cup.
Players to watch:
For Samoa: Powerful tighthead prop Census Johnston is a regular in the French Top 14 and is regarded as an immovable object and will be a pillar of strength for the Samoan scrum. No.8 Kane Thompson has been having a good season with the Chiefs and will a a danger from the back of the scrum. Inside centre Paul Williams is a threat in the midfield, and he has the ability to straighten the line and cut through a half gap if the defence doesn't pay close attention.
For Scotland: The powerhouse in the pack is lock Richie Gray and will is the key man in the engine room and will be asked to give some go forward ball from first receiver. Another outing for flying wing Tim Visser, who would love to add to the two tries he scored against Fiji last weekend.
Head to head: The halfback parings are of the most interest as Samoa have Tusi Pisi back for the match, and the playmaker will be eager to show his worth following limited opportunities in Super Rugby with the Hurricanes this season. Former Crusaders scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali'i is one of the best in the world and will pose a massive threat from the base of the ruck. Scotland have offered the experienced Chris Cusiter an outing in the no.9 jersey ahead of Mike Blair, and it will be interesting to see how he and Greig Laidlaw work as a combination against a strong opposition.
2010: Scotland won 19-16, Aberdeen
2005: Scotland won 18-11, Edinburgh
2004: Scotland won 38-3, Wellington
2000: Scotland won 31-8, Edinburgh
1999: Scotland won 35-20, Edinburgh
1995: Match drawn 15-15, Edinburgh
1991: Scotland won 28-6, Edinburgh
Prediction: Scotland are a tough outfit and will work hard, but this is a real opportunity for Samoan who have the firepower to pick up a big Northern Hemisphere scalp. Samoa to snatch a narrow win.
Samoa: 15 Fa'atoina Autagavai, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Fautua Otto, 12 Paul Williams, 11 David Lemi (captain), 10 Tusi Pisi , 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 6 Ben Masoe, 5 Daniel Crichton, 4 Fa'atiga Lemalu, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Wayne Ole Avei, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Afa Aioni, 20 Jeremy Sua, 21 Ki Anufe , 22 Lolo Lui.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Richie Gray, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford (captain), 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Robert Harley, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Max Evans.
Date: Saturday, June 23
Venue: Apia Park, Apia
Kick-off: 15.30 (2.30 GMT)
Expected weather: A clear day with a temperature of about 22°C for the match.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
AFP and rugby365.com
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