KO 11.15am (7.15pm local time)
Monday 30th September 2019
Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe City
Live on ITV1
Having put Scotland’s dismal past against Tier 1 nations front and centre for last week’s preview then ahead of the game with Samoa it’s only fair to highlight the dark blues’ perfect record versus Tier 2 and 3 teams.
20 matches have come and gone across 8 tournaments and the win rate has remained at 100% against opposition from outside the top level.
There have been close calls mind you. Few closer than four years ago against the same opposition as Monday’s game. A Samoan side with no chance of progressing further in the 2015 tournament gave Scotland a real scare in Newcastle and nearly ended their chances of making the quarter-finals.
Scotland’s record against Tier 2/3 nations in RWC matches:
- Japan – P3 W3
- Romania – P3 W3
- Samoa / Western Samoa – P3 W3
- USA – P2 W2
- Zimbabwe – P2 W2
- Fiji – P1 W1
- Georgia – P1 W1
- Ivory Coast – P1 W1
- Portugal – P1 W1
- Spain – P1 W1
- Tonga – P1 W1
- Uruguay – P1 W1
Samoa Scouting Report
Record in this RWC cycle
Played – 24
Won – 6
Drawn – 1
Lost – 17
Nobody in Pool A has played fewer Tests in this RWC cycle than Samoa. Next in line are Japan with 31. Ireland, Russia and Scotland have all played 40+ capped internationals in the last 4 years.
Manu Samoa have played 6 times against Tier 1 opposition since 2015, losing all 6 by an average score of 15 – 46. Those numbers are skewed by a 0 – 78 hammering from the All Blacks though. The Pacific islanders did get within 2 points of Wales in Apia and within 6 points of Scotland at Murrayfield.
For those who saw his performance at Murrayfield where he was quite probably the outstanding individual on the pitch that day, it would be hard to believe that the 2017 Autumn Test series would be followed by a 2 year hiatus in Tim Nanai-Williams’ Samoa career. The utility back only returned to his national side for their final RWC warm-up match against Australia.
If he makes the starting XV he’ll bring previous experience of conditions in Japan from two seasons in the Top League with the Ricoh Black Rams. More recently he’s been teammates with Greig Laidlaw at Clermont, demonstrating his versatility by starting games at stand off, full back and on the wing.
His presence takes some of the pressure off veteran stand off, Tusi Pisi as the key decision-maker. An elusive runner, Nani-Williams will pop up everywhere and the Scottish defence will need to be at its best to stop him finding gaps or creating space for others.
Key stats from Round 1
Samoa played Russia in their opening game of the 2019 RWC. These were some of the takeaways from that fixture:
- 270 metres made with ball in hand by Samoa’s wingers. (By contrast the entire Scotland 23 made 301m against Ireland.) There is a lot of passing from their key playmakers with the intention of getting the ball wide. The Scottish defence cannot afford to be as narrow (or as charitable) as Russia’s was.
- 47% tackle completion by Russia’s backs. The Samoan backline features plenty of power and quick feet. Overall they broke 33 tackles so they were beating Russian forwards as well as backs.
- 53 tackles attempted by Samoa’s back row. They might have lost starting number 8 Afaesetiti Amosa to injury in the first half but that didn’t slow down the work rate of the loose trio. They will try to dominate the tackle area to slow Scottish ball.
- 2 successful kicks from 7 attempts. If the game had remained tight such profligacy might have cost Samoa. As it is Scotland shouldn’t rely on a repeat performance as streaky kickers can as easily go 90/100% from the tee in a one-off match. Better to avoid giving them kicks at goal altogether!
- 2 yellow cards. It could easily have been 2 reds on the day plus there has been a citing commissioner warning (equivalent to a yellow) for a separate incident that was missed completely. If Samoan indiscipline is an issue on Monday then Scotland have to take advantage and turn it into points on the scoreboard.
Scotland have played Samoa 11 times with the countries’ first meeting coming in the quarter-finals of the 1991 World Cup. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective (RWC matches underlined):
W D W W W W W W L W W
It’s worth noting that in each of Scotland’s last 4 wins (since 2010) Samoa have finished the match less than a converted try down on the scoreboard. It’s probably worth preparing for another nervous 80 minutes’ viewing…
Most recent meeting:
Scotland 44 – 38 Samoa
18 turnovers conceded by Scotland. The attack was firing in this match – when Scotland held on to the ball. The trouble was possession was frequently conceded too easily and instead of being able to shut Samoa out of the game the visitors were given opportunity after opportunity to keep coming back.
There were only 2 lost rucks and 1 lost maul so nearly all the turnovers came from handling errors. Scotland will need to do an awful lot better in this facet of the game if they are to put Samoa away on Monday.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referee 1: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referee 2: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
This will be the 29th game of the Townsend era. It will also be the 7th occasion in that period that M. Gauzere has taken charge of a Scotland match. Scotland haven’t lost the penalty count in any of those games, which is a record they will want to extend against Samoa.
The French official seemed a bit irritable last time round in Georgia, dishing out 25 penalties in total. That was a rather scrappy warm-up match with little on the line. In the cauldron of a meaningful RWC match, the expectation would be that M. Gauzere, in common with most experienced officials, will look to keep the game flowing and the penalty count will be lower.
With tackle heights a massive focus though (especially in light of some high profile on-field misses by the officials in the first week), even the most laissez faire referees surely won’t hesitate to go to their cards during the rest of the tournament. Scotland need to keep low to avoid the kind of problems that could disfigure this game – and their remaining fixtures.
Scotland’s last 5 matches with M. Gauzere in charge:
- 2017 – beat Australia (H)
Penalties: 18 (For 9 – 9 Against)
Cards: Australia 1 RC + 1 YC
- 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
Penalties: 15 (For 8 – 7 Against)
- 2018 – beat Italy (A)
Penalties: 14 (For 9 – 5 Against)
- 2019 – lost to Wales (H)
Penalties: 20 (For 11 – 9 Against)
- 2019 – beat Georgia (A)
Penalties: 25 (For 13 – 12 Against)
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Sunday after the team announcement on Saturday.