Preview: England v Samoa

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 09:25
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NOVEMBER INTERNATIONAL SEASON: There is a cruel irony in financial firm Old Mutual Wealth being the sponsor for Saturday's match between England and Samoa at Twickenham.

For while England's Rugby Football Union is indeed the 15-a-side code's oldest and wealthiest national governing body, there's precious little that is mutual in cash terms when their Test team plays Samoa.

This month saw Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, also chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, declare the SRU bankrupt and blame World Rugby for the cash crisis.

But the global governing body hit back this week by insisting the SRU "is not bankrupt".

Meanwhile, the RFU has pledged to give the SRU £75,000 (US$99,767 or €84,194) from the proceeds of Saturday's match.

Given each England Test at its 82,000-capacity Twickenham headquarters generates some £10 million for the RFU, however, this 'goodwill' gesture represents less than one percent of potential matchday earnings.

England's players, amid uncertainty over how the SRU's finances are being distributed, have decided against donating a portion of their £23,000 per man match fee to their Samoa counterparts whom, by contrast, will receive a mere £600 each.  

"The decision was made along the ethics of paying an opposition to play against you and the future issues that might create," explained England prop Dan Cole.

Samoa captain Chris Vui welcomed the £75,000 from the RFU by saying: "I think they care. It’s a lot of money.

"It's not their [the RFU's] problem to give us money."

England coach Eddie Jones, a technical consultant to Samoa in 2006, insisted rugby chiefs were doing their best to support the game in the Pacific islands.

"World Rugby's a bit like the RFU - everything they do is not right, they never give enough money –- they do and they’ve done a lot of good work with Fiji, Samoa and Tonga," he said.

"They [the Pacific nations] bring this uniqueness to the game, they're great athletes, they have got this freedom of expression in the way that they play the game so everything needs to be done to ensure that they keep playing the game at the highest level," the former Australia and Japan coach added.

Jones has made nine changes to his starting XV for England's final match of 2017 after last week's 30-6 win over his native Australia.

Dylan Hartley, England's captain throughout a run of 21 wins in 22 Tests under Jones, is benched with British and Irish Lions hooker Jamie George given a first Red Rose start in his place.

Elsewhere, first-choice goalkicker Owen Farrell is not even in the matchday 23, and England will now be co-captained on Saturday by fly-half George Ford and former skipper Chris Robshaw.

Jones, explaining the biggest shake-up since he took charge of England following the hosts' first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup, said building depth was essential if they were to dethrone champions New Zealand at the next edition in Japan in two years' time.

"When you go to the World Cup, apart from the starting XV, the first players I will pick after that are number 28, 29, 30 and 31. They are your absolute key players because they almost dictate the morale of your squad at the World Cup," explained Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 Final to England in Sydney.

England has won all their seven previous Tests against Samoa by a minimum of 13 points and the tourists come into this game on the back of defeats by both Scotland (44-38) and Romania (17-13) respectively.

Nevertheless, Jones warned: "We saw last week with 23-20 Ireland-Fiji, 13-6 Wales versus Georgia - these sides are capable on their day and this will be Samoa's big game.

"I know that when they get their emotional level right they’re a bloody hard side to beat," he added.

Samoa coach Titimaea Tafua said his side would look to challenge England in all areas.

"It is a mix of Samoan flair and not only that, but also making the game tough for England."

Players to watch:

For England: You will want to see how Chris Robshaw foes, as he shares the captaincy with George Ford and having moved to openside flank. Maro Itoje, known for his fiery play at lock, will get a run at blindside flank. The new-look front row - and more specifically Leicester Tigers prop Ellis Genge and Saracens Jamie George - will also be in the spotlight.

For Samoa: Alapati Leiua will be the man tasks with play-making duties at inside - coming in the place of Rey Lee-Lo. Thomas Ioane, despite having made just 12 Test appearances, will be a key player for the visitors.

Head to head: The most interesting will be at flyhalf, where England's seasoned No.10 George Ford will go up against a very tricky opponent in Samoan Tim Nanai-Williams - who has been playing No.10 more often and successfully, despite having started his career as an outside back.

Previous results:
2014: England won 28-9, London
2010: England won 23-13, London
2007: England won 44-22, Nantes (World Cup pool match)
2005: England won 40-3, London
2003: England won 35-22, Melbourne (World Cup pool match)
1995: England won 27-9, London
1995: England won 44-22, Durban (World Cup pool match)

Prediction: Samoa have never beaten England before and they are unlike to do so this week. England by 15 points or more.

Teams:

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford (co-captain), 9 Danny Care, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw (co-captain), 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni.

Samoa: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 David Lemi, 10 Tim Nanai-Williams, 9 Dwayne Polataivao, 8 Jack Lam, 7 Thomas Ioane, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Chris Vui (captain), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Jordan Lay.
Replacements: 16 Manu Leiataua, 17 James Lay, 18 Hisa Sasagi, 19 Faatiga Lemalu, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 JJ Taulagi.

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT, 03.00, Sunday, November 26 Samoan time)
Expected weather: Partly sunny and chilly.  High of 6°C and low of 2°C
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com