Wales will face Samoa in Hamilton this Sunday in what is billed to be a cruical group D match, with a victory likely to put the winners in the driving seat to finish second in the group.
Despite turning out an impressive display in their opening game against group favourites South Africa, Wales will approach Sunday’s game with caution having never defeated Samoa in the world cup to date.
The Pacific Islanders are currently sitting above Wales in the pool table following a comprehensive dismissal of Namibia by 42-12 in their opening game.
However the group D minnows are unlikey to represent a threat to any of the group’s main players and Samoa will be wary of Wales’ potent attacking ability despite their impressive record against the Welsh men.
Samao shocked the Rugby World in 1991 when they defeated a confident Welsh side 16-13 at the Cardiff Arms Park. They followed up this victory with another one in 1999, this time in the Millenium Stadium by 38-34, earning themselves the tag as Wales’ World Cup bogey team.
Despite having a reputation for playing bruising rugby, Samoa have improved considerably in recent years and have added more dimensions to their game, which include better organisation and set-piece play.
This development was only too evident when they provided a stern test for both England and Ireland on their UK tour last year and recorded a win over Australia two months ago.
As a result, arguably the best Samoan side ever assembled will line out against Wales on Sunday as they bid to make it through the group stages for the first time since 1999.
The Pacific Islander’s physicality and ability to break out of the line of defence and deliver crunching tackles will prove crucial if Samoa are to crush Welsh World Cup ambitions once more.
However, despite finishing on the wrong side of the score-line, Wales played arguably their best rugby in last week’s defeat to South Africa in Wellington since winning the Six Nations in 2008.
Following the defeat to the springboks, which has been described as both unfortunate and undeserved, Wales will look to Sunday’s outing against Samoa knowing that another defeat could signal a premature end to their World Cup campaign.
After a bout of injuries leading into the tournament, coach Warren Gatland found himself with the rare opportunity to name an unchanged team for Sunday’s clash, a move which he hopes will allow his side to continue to build momentum following an impressive if not effective start to their campaign.
Despite a less than flattering record against their Pacific Island opponents, Wales possess a physicality and fitness that cannot be underestimated by any side in NewZealand.
Gatland and his team will look to the their big-ball carriers such as, Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau and Rhys Priestland, who impressed in their side’s defeat to South Africa last week, as they aim to outplay possibly the best Samoan side in history.
A performance on par with that dispalyed against the Springboks may well prove too strong for Samoa and see the game tip in the favour of Wales, however a tight, physical battle is expected.
If Samoa start well and unsettle Welsh possession they’ll give themselves a great chance of delivering another tournament upset and continuing their World Cup winning streak against Wales.
Wales: 15 James Hook, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Scott Williams, 22 Leigh Halfpenny.
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Fa’asavalu, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (c), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Taiasina Tuifu’a, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu, 22 Tasesa Lavea.