Preview: Scotland v Samoa

Fri, 07 Jun 2013 06:48
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Scotland hope to extend an almost-perfect Test record against Samoa when the sides kick-off a four-nation tournament Saturday in Durban.

Scotland hope to extend an almost-perfect Test record against Samoa when the sides kick-off a four-nation tournament Saturday in Durban.

Although three positions below the seventh-placed Pacific islanders on the IRB world rankings, the Scots have won seven of eight previous internationals between the teams and drawn the other.

A Scottish victory at Kings Park in the Indian Ocean city would make it seven on the trot after winning 28-6 at Murrayfield in 1991 and drawing 15-15 at the same Edinburgh stadium four years later.

Samoa came closest to ending the Scottish dominance when losing 17-16 in Apia last year, and hopes of doing even better this weekend could hinge on how well they jelled this week after a traumatic start to the build-up.

As Scotland jetted into South Africa last weekend after an encouraging third place in the Six Nations championship this year, Samoa were being whipped 74-14 in Johannesburg by demoted Super Rugby outfit the Golden Lions.

The islanders missed late-arriving stars, but the way in which they conceded 10 tries and fell apart after trailing by 13 points at half-time must have infuriated coach Stephen Betham.

A Lions team not good enough to be among the five South African Super 15 competitors ran rings around unfit, hesitant and careless Samoans, whose outclassed pack included 138-kilogram tight-head prop James Johnston.

"That was our worst nightmare.

"I never imagined this could happen and we have a lot of pride to restore against Scotland," captain and centre Paul Williams said of the mauling.

James Johnston must settle for a place on the bench in Durban, and Samoa retained only six of the side beaten 22-14 away to France last November in their previous Test.

Centre Johnny Leota, flyhalf Tusi Pisi, tight-head prop Census Johnston, lock Filo Paulo, flank Ofisa Treviranus and No.8 Taiasina Tuifu'a survive from the Stade de France starters.

Scotland, who are in the same 2015 World Cup group as Samoa and June 15 opponents South Africa, chose three new caps as Australia-born coach Scott Johnson seeks greater squad depth.

Fullback Greig Tonks, centre Alex Dunbar and hooker Pat MacArthur are the debutants in a team less affected by the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia than England, Ireland and Wales.

Only three Scots - fullback Stuart Hogg, right wing Sean Maitland and lock Richie Gray - made the touring party despite a better-than-expected Six Nations finish.

"We have 25 Tests before the World Cup and are not going to give jerseys away," said Johnson, "but we cannot be exposed by injury issues and the best way to prevent that is to give players opportunities."

Samoa play Italy and Scotland meet South Africa next Saturday in the second round with four points for a win, two for a draw, one for losing by less than eight points, and one for scoring at least four tries in a game.

The novel tournament concludes on June 22 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria with a final between the first and second-place teams, preceded by a third-place play-off.

Players to watch:

For Scotland: With a couple of new faces in the Scottish side as well as missing a few of their bigger names who are with the British and Irish Lions, Tim Visser has to be one of the players to watch for Scotland. A player who was, arguably, unlucky not to crack the Lions nod will want to show what he can do and prove the selectors wrong. The Scottish loose trio was hugely influential during the Six Nations and Beatie, Brown and Strokosch will need to be on top of their game to upset the quick backs of the Samoans. Former Lion and mean scrummager, Euan Murray, will be another player to look out for as Scotland search for another win over the Pacific rivals.

For Samoa: The big frame of Census Johnston is going to have provide them with a rock at scrum-time if they are hoping to give the ball to their exciting backline. Hurricane, Jack Lam is not shy of contact and will hope to disrupt a lot of Scottish ball on his international debut. In the backline the Samoans have got some serious game-breakers. Alapati Leiua - although making his debut - has been impressive for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby this year. Captain and centre Paul Williams has got years of experience under his belt and this will be vital for his side if they want to beat their much fancied opponents.

Head-to-head: The youth versus experience battle at 13 will be interesting to follow as Alex Dunbar makes his Test debut and he comes up against the experienced Paul Williams. On the wing, Leiua takes on Visser is what is a mouth-watering match-up. The battle of the flyhalves is always highlighted and two relatively inexperienced players in Tusi Pisi and Tom Heathcote will need to size one-an-other up quickly if they want to get their side on the front foot.

Recent results:
2012: Scotland won 17-16, Apia
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: Draw 15-15, Edinburgh
1991: Scotland won 28-6, Edinburgh

Prediction: The Samoans have changed up a lot of their personnel from the hiding they got from the Golden Lions last week which will mean they will be a lot more competitive than people think they will be. With this in mind, I still do not feel that they will have enough power and experience to match the Scottish side. Scotland to win by at least 10 points.

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown (captain), 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Steven Lawrie, 17 Moray Low, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Duncan Taylor.

Samoa: 15 James Sooialo, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Paul Williams (captain), 12 Jonny Leota, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Jeremy Sua, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Wayne Ole Avei, 1 Logovii Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Maatulimanu Leiataua, 17 Sakaria Taulafo, 18 James Johnston, 19 Faatiga Lemalu, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Brando Vaaulu, 22 Seilala Mapusua, 23 Alafoti Faosiliva.

Date: Saturday, June 8
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 14.00 (12.00 GMT; 01.00, Sunday, June 9 Samoa time)
Expected weather: Absolute scorcher predicted for Durban with a high of 29°C which will be uncomfortable to play in at 14.00. No rain predicted with a low of 15°C.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Sindile Mayende (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

AFP & Rugby365