Manu Samoa was Western Samoa now it’s Manu Samoa not American Samoa that’s Manu Samoa not plain old Samoa…but not Manu Tuilagi or Samu Manoa. Isn’t that how the old song goes? Anyway Scotland’s first opponents on the newly created Quadrangular/Castle Lager/Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool B dress rehearsal are Manu Samoa.
Scotland came out tops in a narrow last minute win against the Samoans during last year’s summer tour of the Pacific but Saturday’s opposition cannot be underestimated having risen to 7th in the IRB World Rankings having beaten Australia and Wales in the last few years. They have never beaten Scotland however and a slightly weakened Samoa were taken apart by the Golden Lions team last weekend loosing 74-14 (although altitude may have played a part).
The reason Scotland lost to Tonga in the autumn was because the Tongans wanted it more. Scotland were superior in the first half but squandered a dozen chances and had no answer for the intensity and desire of the Tongan’s in the second half. The Samoans will be no different and Scotland will need match their desire and battle for every loose ball and contest every breakdown with equal ferocity. However…
2. Keep the heid
A regular point from our Six Nations “5 Key Points…” series. Scotland might have to match Samoa’s intensity but they’ll also have to keep on the right side of the referee. Samoan tacklers are quick to get back on their feet so there’s a high risk of penalties for holding on or interference in the ruck. There’s no one in the Scotland team with form for getting silly yellow cards (although Jim Hamilton has flirted on occasion) but keeping 15 men on the pitch will be key.
3. Support runners
The Golden Lions found as many holes in the Samoan defence than there are in Warren Gatland’s argument for picking Alex Corbisiero ahead of Ryan Grant (nope we’re not letting that one go even though Grant’s now on a plane to Oz). A dry pitch will suit the likes of Scott, Dunbar, Tonks and Visser but the reason the Golden Lions were able to put 10 tries past the Samoans is because there was a man on each shoulder of every player that broke the gain line.
4. Do the Choke
Manu Samoa love an offload. Not just their backs either. Their front row forwards have a better passing ability than some of the backs who’ve worn a Scottish jersey in recent years. Tacklers will need to hit high and wrap themselves around some big Samoan arms to prevent the pass because once the Samoans get going there’s little to stop them.
5. Time to shine
The loss of Maitland, Hogg and Gray to the Lions have given some of Scotland’s fringe players a chance to show what they can do. Tonks, Dunbar, MacArthur have had legions of loyal fans screaming for their inclusion for the last couple of years and this is their chance. Dunbar and MacArthur have the most to gain with no consistent incumbent to overcome whilst Tonks needs to show he can fill Hoggy’s boots. The main question mark is Tom Heathcote. Scotland have struggled for consistency at fly half for almost a decade and both Jackson and Weir have had their chances without quite answering the questions asked of them. Heathcote was calm and composed during his brief and thankless cameo against Tonga, has been in form for Bath and put in a decent shift against the Saxons at Kingston Park in February. This is his chance to make the 10 shirt his own, at least for the Autumn.
Coverage live on Sky Sports