Scotland v Samoa, Autumn Tests 2017 – match preview

KO 2.30
Saturday 11th November
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Live on BBC1 Scotland

12 years since their last visit Samoa are finally back at the home of Scottish rugby – “afio mai” to a side that have brought a huge amount to the game over the years and who will hopefully get the support (financial and otherwise) that they need to survive and prosper in the future.

There’s been a shorter gap between matches at the national stadium for Scotland but some pretty significant changes in the coaching setup since they nilled Italy in March. Last time Scotland played at Murrayfield the head coach was on the verge of tears. If Toony is nearly greeting at the end of play on Saturday afternoon then something has gone very badly wrong indeed…

  • This weekend’s crowd will be more than 4 times the size of the one at the last meeting of the two nations at Murrayfield in 2005 – just 14,718 hardy souls turned out for that game whereas more than 60,000 tickets had been sold a week ahead of kick off in this season’s fixture.
  • The Samoan team for the match in 2005 included 4 men who had played or who would go on to play club rugby in Scotland – Lome Fa’atau (Glasgow Warriors); Tanner Villi (Border Reivers); Justin Va’a (Glasgow Warriors); and Semo Sititi (Border Reivers).
  • It’s been more than 5 years since David Lemi became the last Samoan Test player to feature for a Scottish side, with Fijiweegies in particular being the more recent go to for overseas recruitment. Might there be some talent on show on Saturday who would benefit from exposure in the PRO14?

Starting XV stats:
Backs

26.4   Average age   30.0   
165   
Test caps   111
48   
Tries scored   21

Forwards
27.4   Average age   27.6
174
   Test caps   66
884kg   Pack weights   883kg

  • There are 8 men in line for their Test debuts – 4 on each side.
  • If all 4 Scots make it onto the pitch that will bring the total of first caps awarded since the RWC warm-up matches in 2015 to 21.
  • 8 of the new players in that period have been props with Scotland being particularly tough on the big lads in recent years!
  • David Lemi accounts for 51 caps and 13 tries from the Samoan backline’s total. As the oldest man on the pitch (at 35 years and 9 months) he also drags the average age up by a full year!
  • Samoa’s tight 5 have just 23 caps between them – and 16 of those belong to hooker Manu Leiataua.

 

SCOTLAND
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Huw Jones
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Lee Jones
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
EVEN
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
SAMOA
15 Ah See Tuala
14 Paul Perez
13 Kieron Fonotia
12 Reynold Lee-Lo
11 David Lemi
10 Tim Nanai Williams
9 Pele Cowley

1 Darryl Marfo
2 Stuart McInally
3 WP Nel
4 Ben Toolis
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay (c)
7 Hamish Watson
8 Ryan Wilson
.
EVEN
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
EVEN
EVEN

1 Jordan Lay
2 Manu Leiataua
3 Donal Brighouse
4 Josh Tyrell
5 Chris Vui (c)
6 Piula Fa’asalele
7 TJ Ioane
8 Jack Lam

16 George Turner
17 Jamie Bhatti
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Tim Swinson
20 Cornell Du Preez
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Peter Horne
23 Chris Harris
.
ADV Samoa
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Samoa
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
EVEN

16 Motu Matu’u
17 James Lay
18 Hisa Sasagi
19 Fa’atiga Lemalu
20 Ofisa Treviranus
21 Mealani Matavao
22 AJ Alatimu
23 Alapati Leiua

Samoa scouting report

  • Changing of the guard
    Samoa are in something of a transitional period right now. Having been the dominant force in the Pacific Nations Cup from 2010 to 2014 the last RWC seemed to catch them just as they were dropping off that level of play. Among others there are no Tuilagis, no Pisis and no Kahn Fotuali’i involved against Scotland and it’s the next generation of Samoan players who will set the tone leading up to the next World Cup in Japan.
  • Playoff problems
    Samoa’s struggles have been particularly ill-timed in relation to qualification for 2019. A heavy defeat at home to Fiji dropped them into last place in the PNC – something which had never happened before – and means the Samoans need to come through a playoff to avoid missing out on a World Cup for the first time since 1987 (when they were not invited).
  • Star man
    The key player for Samoa is undoubtedly Tim Nanai Williams. The former New Zealand 7s man is exceptionally talented, regularly featuring across the backline (11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) for the Chiefs. He’s never started a top level match at stand off though, with his only other outing in the 10 shirt seemingly a game back in 2009 for Counties Manukau against Taranaki in the Air New Zealand Cup! It will be a big task for the inexperienced pivot to run the show for his side at Murrayfield on Saturday.
  • Opportunity knocks
    Of the Samoan 23 there are 9 men playing top tier rugby (Premiership / PRO14 / Super Rugby / Top 14). Another 12 are playing at the rung below (Championship / Mitre 10 / Pro D2) with 2 of the squad yet to make their breakthrough to either of these levels.

Previous results
Scotland and Samoa have met on 10 occasions with 8 wins for the men in dark blue, 1 win for the men in not so dark blue and 1 draw. Since their last trip to Murrayfield the 2 sides have played 4 times with Samoa picking up their solitary win (in Durban) and Scotland edging the other 3 matches by an average margin of just 2.3 points.

Last meeting – St. James’ Park (10th October 2015):

Scotland 36 – 33 Samoa

 

Scotland’s final pool match at RWC 2015 may have been virtually a home game but they were given an almighty scare by a Samoan team that had previously struggled through 3 disappointing performances in the tournament.

With qualification out of their grasp it felt like a weight had been lifted off their collective shoulders and they were everything to be expected from Manu Samoa – aggressive into contact but playing the game at a pace and skill level that was a joy to watch (unless you were a Scotland fan suffering through the entire 80 minutes!) Only the composure of Greig Laidlaw in nailing his kicks at goal and finishing the crucial, clinching try separated the sides in a 69-point thriller.

Both teams are much changed from that afternoon in Newcastle with only 6 Scots and 5 Samoans starting both games. Scotland will be keen to see no repeat of the rampant attack from Samoa that saw them make almost 200m more than the dark blues with ball in hand – largely due to breaking 28 tackles. Samoa’s work on from that previous match will surely have been discipline. They conceded ridiculously high number of penalties – 20 in all – which helped Scotland stay in the game and keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Officials:

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant 1: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant 2: George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Nic Berry’s in charge so that means Every Loser Wins – amiright?!? On a more serious note this will be the biggest match of Mr. Berry’s career so far as he takes charge of a Test featuring a Tier One nation for the first time. There will be some challenges for both sides (and the ref!) and the expectation would be for a stricter interpretation in all facets of the game than might be the case with a more experienced whistler.

It’s been a meteoric rise for the former Queensland Reds, Racing Metro and Wasps player. Mr. Berry took charge of his first NRC match in 2015; debuted at Super Rugby level in 2016; and took another step forward when he took charge of the World Rugby u20 Championship final earlier this year. Having played scrum-half 130 times at the top level of club rugby he will have had plenty of practice refereeing matches before he officially took up the role though…

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