A NEW BE­GIN­NING

NZ Rugby World Tournament Guide - - CON­TENTS -

A bet­ter build up and the erad­i­ca­tion of a few off field prob­lems should help Samoa.

Samoa have made huge progress off the field in re­cent months and that is ex­pected to help the play­ers fi­nally get close to ful­fill­ing their po­ten­tial. GRE­GOR PAUL re­ports.

THEY AR­RIVE IN ENG­LAND AS..?

A more co­he­sive, bet­ter or­gan­ised, bet­ter pre­pared, bet­ter man­aged side than they have been at any time in the last 24 years. And be­cause of that, they ar­rive in Eng­land as a gen­uine dark horse with the ca­pac­ity to reach the last eight and who knows...maybe even go be­yond. With tests against the All Blacks and Bar­bar­ians be­fore they ar­rive, they for once come to a World Cup match con­di­tioned and may have a good idea of their best com­bi­na­tions and what type of rugby is go­ing to work for them. They are, if noth­ing else, an in­trigu­ing prospect.

WHAT TYPE OF FOOT­BALL WILL THEY PLAY?

Tough ques­tion to an­swer this. Ahead of the last World Cup the an­swer was sim­ple: they would have been a run from ev­ery­where team. But when they ac­tu­ally got to the tour­na­ment, they played more like Eng­land than Samoa with so much pick and go and con­ser­va­tive stuff. It didn’t suit them and the chal­lenge in 2015 will be to find a happy medium. The Sevens-style foot­ball only gets them so far: but so too does the bash up the guts.

If they can add a bit of bite to their set piece and break­down work; kick ju­di­ciously and ex­pertly and re­tain their nat­u­ral at­tack­ing in­stincts with ball in hand...then they could be deadly and hugely en­ter­tain­ing.

ARE THEY SUIT­ABLY MO­TI­VATED?

When any Samoan sticks the test jer­sey on... they are mo­ti­vated. As in...they are go­ing to die for it. So yes...they are suit­ably mo­ti­vated.

DO THEY HAVE ENOUGH PER­SON­NEL DEPTH?

Not to win the tour­na­ment, no. But they have enough to weather a nat­u­ral cy­cle of in­juries and progress to the quar­ter­fi­nals. They are a lit­tle bit vul­ner­a­ble at half­back and first-five and wouldn’t go to well if they lose ei­ther Kahn Fo­tu­ali’i or Tusi Pisi. But in the out­side backs and loose for­ward they have the lux­ury of choice and just about enough big units in the tight five to scrape by.

CAN THEY COPE WITH THE PRES­SURE?

In the past, they haven’t been too good un­der pres­sure. In 2011, play­ing South Africa, they lost their dis­ci­pline at times when they had the Boks scram­bling. It was much the same when they played Wales – they had the chance to strike a killer blow but they just couldn’t land it: lit­tle mis­takes at crit­i­cal times. Some of that could be put down to lack of game time to­gether and lack of ex­po­sure to top class op­po­nents in be­tween World Cups. With most of their squad play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally some­where in the world, they have enough ex­pe­ri­ence of big time foot­ball to be rel­a­tively con­fi­dent they will cope.

WHERE ARE THEIR WEAK­NESSES?

His­tor­i­cally, they have been short of con­di­tion­ing and a lit­tle care­less/reck­less in some of their one-on-one tack­ling. One of the sticks with which they have been beaten by the Euro­pean clubs is that play­ers re­turn from Samoa test duty out of shape. Be­ing able to go the full 80 min­utes is im­per­a­tive and Samoa have a few big boys who might be dig­ging un­be­liev­ably deep to hang in there for the fi­nal 10 min­utes. And when play­ers are fa­tigued, that’s when mis­takes are made and tech­nique can be lazy.

WHAT ARE THEIR KEY STRENGTHS?

Rugby is es­sen­tially a game of pass, catch and run and the Samoans do all three par­tic­u­larly well. Their ba­sic skills are pol­ished and in­stinc­tive and the back­line can cause some dam­age if it is given enough front-foot ball.

Samoa can score from any­where and they can turn de­fence into at­tack about as well as any side in the world game. The de­struc­tive tack­ling that has be­come com­mon across the globe – it was the Samoans who started and the Samoans who re­main the best at it.

WHAT PO­TEN­TIAL PROB­LEMS COULD THEY IN­CUR?

The big con­cern for Samoa is things turn­ing to cus­tard off the field. That’s what hap­pened in 2011 – all sorts of non­sense was hap­pen­ing with man­age­ment and it left the play­ers in a hor­ri­ble po­si­tion. Whereas the es­tab­lished na­tions don’t have to worry about a sin­gle thing – they are well paid, they stay in good ho­tels, laun­dry is done, train­ing is or­gan­ised and all the kit turns up. For the Samoans, that rarely hap­pens. They of­ten have to fight for the ba­sics and it can be drain­ing and dis­tract­ing.

DO THEY HAVE A STRONG ENOUGH LEAD­ER­SHIP TEAM?

They have a group of ex­pe­ri­enced, older play­ers who have been around for long enough to make their voices heard and guide the next gen­er­a­tion. What will have gal­vanised the play­ers and given them con­fi­dence in their lead­er­ship, is the way they han­dled their stand off with the rul­ing body late last year. The play­ers de­cided they’d had enough of be­ing ripped off and abused so they stood firm and fought for a res­o­lu­tion which has en­abled the whole of Samoan rugby to move for­ward.

POWER CU P: Samoa will be con­fronta­tional.

DODGE BALL: Tim Nanai-Wil­liams is an elu­sive run­ner.

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