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Scotland v Samoa, RWC 2019: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

[Edinburgh, UK. November 11, 2017] Jonny Gray carries for Scotland vs Samoa at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Japan’s superb win over Ireland has added a fresh wrinkle in Scotland’s quest for a quarter-final slot. What hasn’t changed is that Gregor Townsend’s men need victories in their three remaining pool fixtures. A potential three-way battle in Pool A does mean bonus points are properly in the mix now. That puts winning matches by scoring tries at the top of the Scottish agenda, starting with this game against Samoa.

Tale of the tape

50   Tries   31
92kg   Average weight   93kg
260   Total caps   106
25   RWC caps   17
RWC debutants   1
28.1   Average age   29.3

903kg   Pack weight   924kg
Tries   12
201   Total caps   151
17   RWC caps   18
RWC debutants   0
27.6   Average age   29.5

12   Tries   4
199   Total caps   94
17   RWC caps   4
RWC debutants   4
27.1   Average age   28.8

5 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Ireland)

  • 14 – Graham for Seymour [+]
  • 13 – Harris for Taylor [=]
  • 6 – Bradbury for Barclay [+]
  • 7 – Watson for Ritchie [-]
  • 8 – Thomson for Wilson [=]

15 Stuart Hogg
14 Darcy Graham
13 Chris Harris
12 Sam Johnson
11 Sean Maitland
10 Finn Russell
9 Greig Laidlaw
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
15 Tim Nanai-Williams
14 Belgium Tuatagaloa
13 Alapati Leiua
12 Henry Taefu
11 Ed Fidow
10 Tusi Pisi
9 Melani Matavao

1 Allan Dell
2 Stuart McInally (c)
3 Willem Nel
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Jonny Gray
6 Magnus Bradbury
7 Jamie Ritchie
8 Blade Thomson

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Samoa

1 Logovi’i Mulipola
2 Ray Niuia
3 Mike Ala’alatoa
4 Filo Paulo
5 Kane Leaupepe
6 Chris Vui
7 TJ Ioane
8 Jack Lam (c)

16 Fraser Brown
17 Gordon Reid
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Scott Cummings
20 Ryan Wilson
21 George Horne
22 Adam Hastings
23 Duncan Taylor

ADV Scotland
ADV Samoa
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

16 Seilala Lam
18 Jordan Lay
17 Paulo Alo-Emile
19 Piula Fa’asalele
20 Josh Tyrell
21 Pele Cowley
22 Ulupano Seuteni
23 Kieron Fonotia


Backs – advantage Scotland

Samoa have lost scrum half Dwayne Polataivao (injury) and Rey Lee-Lo from the backline that started against Russia. Cardiff Blues’ Lee-Lo of course was one of the players who ripped the Scottish defence to shreds during these two sides’ last RWC clash in 2015. As mentioned in Part 1 of the preview they have twin playmakers at 10 and 15 and plenty of pace and power out wide.

Scotland’s own attempts to play the game primarily through the hands of Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg as distributors foundered on the oppressive Irish rush defence. Expect a little more variety this week but ultimately it comes down to how well the players can execute under pressure. Fractions of a second difference in winning the ball or getting a pass away can turn a line break into a turnover.

Forwards – advantage Scotland

Another two changes for Samoa and again it’s one due to injury (Afa Amosa at number 8) and one due to suspension (Motu Matu’u at hooker). Replacement number 2 Ray Niuia was superb off the bench last week and captain Jack Lam returns from his own injury to go head to head with his former Hurricanes’ teammate Blade Thomson at number 8 so there is no drop off in quality in the pack.

Scotland have picked this tight 5 or a slight variant of it (either with Simon Berghan for Willem Nel or Ben Toolis for Jonny Gray) in 9 of their last 11 matches. It should be one of the strongest units Scotland has ever selected – but they need to put in the performance to prove that. The back row has seen a complete overhaul and the new trio will have their hands full. Scottish possession has to be cleaner and opposition ball more disrupted than was the case last week.

Subs – advantage Scotland

Scottish depth looks pretty good on paper. Translating that onto an impact on the game is a different matter though! Gregor Townsend will be hoping he can choose how best to use his subs this week rather than having to firefight injuries. The dream scenario is to be in control of the game and to get the Hornstings partnership on early to prepare them for starting against Russia in the next fixture. There’s an awful lot of rugby to be played before that and it may be that Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell need to stay out there until the job is done.


– 9 players in the Scottish 23 featured the last time these two teams met at a World Cup. Just 4 Samoans were involved in that end to end match at St James’ Park in Newcastle 4 years ago.

– Gregor Townsend has only twice named more experienced 23s than the group selected for this game (660 caps).

– Jordan Lay will be the only former Scottish pro team player that the dark blues come up against in these pool stages. The Samoan prop was with Edinburgh for part of the 2017-18 season.

– The matchday squad is split almost exactly between players who made their Test debuts in the current RWC cycle (11) and those whose international careers kicked off before the 2015 tournament (12).

– Blade Thomson has yet to take a lineout in his Scotland career. Given he started the 2018/19 season as Scarlets’ primary jumper expect to see him become a much bigger factor in the setpiece as the tournament progresses.

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67 Responses

  1. Both Gilchrist and Gray ADV Scotland?? you’re kidding right?..more like DisAdv

    Our back row has the potential to be the best backrow, as a unit, we have seen for a long time in a Sco shirt. Hopefully they gel quickly and show that. I wish we had started with Watson at 7 and the other on the bench. Wilson and/or Barclay shouldn’t have made the squad.

    Pretty good subs bench too.

  2. Watched the Edinburgh match, magic to see Mark Bennett looking so lean and sharp after basically 3 years injured. May yet have loads to offer the test team at just 26.

    1. Agreed …great to see Mark Bennett back. Hopefully he kicks on now. Talented rugby player.

      He a tricky pick for a test side though. He’s on the edge of being too small for a test centre….built more like a scrum half. Darcy Graham will play ahead of him on the wing…and its difficult to play with two small wingers.

      1. Has he not got over 20 caps? He did fine when he was fit. His height never affected him in those caps. He seems to be built like a tank these days from what I see…

      2. Kick on… reminds me he has a boot like a howitzer. Can put it over from halfway. We have too many centres. I wonder if he can play fullback. What a cunning plan!

      3. He was the player of the World Cup at centre in 2015 according to the New Zealand herald. I remember thinking he was better than Hogg. Such a shame his injury problems. His stature I think is becoming quite common amongst the creatives in world rugby. Barret, Ford, Hogg etc

      4. He like all Glasgow Centres have done Hogg’s tackling for years. He has an Olympic medal, no room for him and Hogg in the same team now.

  3. Agree re Bennett, it will be great to see him like his old self.

    It’ll be good to get some prime South African beef into the Scotland team too, VDM & Schoeman (& maybe VDW) will be tremendous assets.

    1. Shoeman, especially, would walk into Scotland side at LH.
      VDM would be a type of winger we dont have.

      1. VDM signed May 2017 (3 years)

        Schoeman signed summer 2018 (5 years)

        Keeble signed August 2017 (3 years)

        Van Der Walt signed Nov 2017 (3 years)

  4. I tell you what I don’t like about this article Kevin. It reads like we hold all the cards and just need to show up. Is this really such a poor Samoan side! Cummings will start against Japan, we just do not want to lose him this early.

    1. Heaven help us if Blade picks up another head injury tomorrow. Assuming Barclay still isn’t fit, Wilson lining up against Japan does not inspire confidence.

    2. In answer to your question? Yes they are. We were good but this is clearly in hindsight however. Wasn’t worried after the first 10 mins and they had attacked us once. Was really worried in the last ten that we weren’t going to get the bonus.

  5. Should we be worried that both in the forwards and backs the Samoans have a higher strike rate per cap? I expect it has a lot to do with us playing more teams like Wales and Ireland which have very miserly defences but it shows they know the way to the try line if our defence isn’t solid.

    Bookies have us as 17pt favourites and they’ve been pretty accurate so far this World Cup… here’s hoping they’ve got it right again!

    1. We’ve scraped wins against them 2015 and 2017. They definitely know the way to the try line…we scored 6 tries to their 5 @ Murrayfield 2017?
      We are going to have to play better defensively than we did in those matches and at least equally as well in attack.

  6. Expecting another insipid performance from an undercooked XV. Will switch loyalties to a proper rugby nation like Japan. Great time to be testing out a new centre pairing – cannot believe Harris at 13 with Jones sat at home.

  7. Not sure if any ‘head to head’ can factor in how individual players will cope with the likely temperature tonight of 27 degrees, or the humidity here in Kobe. Surely advantage Samoa? How significant will this be and if the roof is closed as Tom English suggested, does that make it hotter or colder?

    1. Posts were raised about the 16th man in Japan and we were reassured that the humidity would be low by one of our best read posters FF. I am confident he got it right. It is advantage Scotland in every department.Take that tin foil hat off and enjoy the rugby, we only need to score more points than them. A few Dan Parks (probably our best back ever) drop kicks and we are home and anything but dry. You are sweating more than them.

      1. That’s an understatement! It was very hot and stuffy in the stadium! Great to see the team cope so well and get the win in such tricky conditions.

  8. We’re DOOMED!!!!!!

    Come on chaps, yes we paid poorly V Ireland but Ireland & Wales play with a perfect blue-print to make us exasperated/frustrated/beat us/make us look rubbish. It takes a good team to do that & if you think Samoa will be able to carry out these smothering tactics (will they even try?) then…………………… There are issues in the Scottish set up but we should win today. The Samoans are by trade big strong aggressive and will leave gaps, we should get the shove in the scrum & secure our own line-out (I would’ve played Toolis). The spaces will be there for our superb backs. Its likely they will see THIS as a huge opportunity – beat us & Japan & they are in a shout with qualifying.

  9. Very worried for today. Yes we should edge it but I’m still not sure we have the right squad. To bring Barclay and Taylor on the back of no real rugby was clearly a mistake. Quality players both on their day even a couch potato knows it takes almost 1/3 of a season for long term injured to get up to speed. Unfair Pressure now on Bradbury to be the difference. Ritchie is good enough but with a recently installed plate in his cheek we cant expect him to charging into rucks with abandon.
    The decision to leave Hastings out of the Ireland game was bewildering. We still have no clue who was back up 10 that day if Finn went off. Whoever it was would’ve been a massive gamble on biggest match of the pool. Now Hastings has the message he’s only good enough as bench cover against tier2.
    Principal problem as ever, Laidlaw will still provide slow service. G Horne should have been given game time in the warm ups and shouldve been back up to Price.
    Fed up with all the talk of co leaders. These ex captain’s in the squad can be a distraction. McNally good enough to make No2 spot on merit all day long (and Brown when he comes on at 60 mins takes the armband) he’s your captain doesn’t need to be looking over his shoulder listening to serial losers like Laidlaw and Barclay.
    Can’t say I massively disagree with squad taken but Barclay, Taylor are taking up places of Hardie and Bennet.

  10. Podcast : I love it , we are depending on an unnamed Typhoon cancelling the Ireland Russia game resulting in a draw.

    Typhoon ‘Bawbag’ , son of the hurricane has been circling the world and is now about to descend on Japan in time to save Scotland.

  11. I remember in the QF WC game @ Murrayfield – Gavin Hastings charging into the massed ranks of Samoans from the outset……

    1. Do you think Scotland’s best ever back Hogg will do that today. I don’t, he could get injured. He will be keeping well back.

    1. I wish you’d told the teams – no-one’s come close to scoring a try so far! Can’t see us getting a BP…

      1. See? (Also Maitland and Laidlaw are the 2 Scots in my fantasy team this round…..)

        Graham driving samoans back in the tackle is absolute gold!

      2. Graham is awesome. Back row have been much better so far, too. The handling errors are costing us, though. We’ve made more than twice as many metres from nine more runs, and beaten more than twice as many defenders. Where’s Samoa’s open game?

  12. Those 2 tries have helped to secure the game and give hope for the bonus point. But 2 collapsed mauls…..would have been good to have a penalty try and card

    1. You need at least three penalties for refs to even consider a yellow for those type of situations.

      We had achieved enough to get a penalty when we threw it over Darcy’s head into touch but ref never gave an advantage. What’s that all about?

  13. Was a bit concerned at the lack of scoring by the 30th minute but it came. Shout outs to Bradbury, Ritchie and Graham who have came in and been immense. An all round step up in effort and intensity which was exactly what was required. Few too many errors but it’s clearly very tricky.

    Need to keep it up and don’t go chasing the bonus, if we keep up what we have been doing it will come anyway.

    1. Ritchie is really covering for Watson well and Bradbury carrying hard.

      Front 5 doing their jobs.

      Laidlaw/Russell/Hogg tactically very good, Graham dangerous and Maitland really up for it.

      Centres been a bit anonymous so far.

      Horne to come on at 60 minutes if we still need a couple of tries…..

  14. Just wondered for a second if we should have kicked but the line out drives are brilliant. Need to keep it tight and tire them now . Out wide in last 20.

  15. Uncharateristic Out of the full from Hogg followed by poor penalty touch find. He needs to kick and keep away from injury likely situations. Stop playing rugby in our own half.

      1. But the referee was wrong , when you looked at the spider cam the Samoan loose head had split away from his hooker and provided no platform. It is the same tactic that has been levied at Healy by Jamie Joseph.

  16. The yellow/red was absolutely the right decision, not entirely sure it was a penalty try but I’ll take it!

      1. Hmm, had he not tackled Maitland it would been a try. Had he tackled Maitland legally it wouldn’t have been a try. What is the deciding factor, does the attempt at a tackle not count at all if it was an illegal one?

    1. Sliding into someone’s back with your knees to prevent a certain try is not a PT?

      You sure about that?

    2. In football that is how it is ruled and should be ruled like that in rugby too no idea if it is though. He was so close to the line when the tackle came in. cms away. I reckon penalty try is the right call.

  17. Go the bp – mission accomplished, but also restored a bit of pride.
    Holding Samoa to 0 is the most impressive thing, even if they looked poor.
    Still plenty to work on but a good start.

  18. In any other context that wouldn’t have been a bottom clencher but it blooming well was. Good result, nilled them and got the bonus point so we are still at the races and looked like a vastly improved performance (if you can tell from sneaking glances at your smart phone whilst at work:) )

  19. Well we did what we needed to. The nilling part was as much Samoa’s inability to string phases together and ridiculous errors as our defence but it was a step change from last week.

    Felt we chased the game a bit towards the end and were fortunate to get the BP. The +34 points difference will come in handy. The conditions were clearly very tricky owing to the number of errors from both sides. Hopefully they can deny Ireland or Japan a bonus!

    Ritchie was my MOTM, he was pretty lucky to not give away a penalty a couple of times but that’s what you need from a 7. Thought Bradbury was excellent in the first half but faded a bit in the second as did Graham.

  20. Well, I’ve never seen a 34-point nilling look less convincing! Glad we did it, though, and it demonstrated the difference that attitude makes. There are concerns about our handling (although the handling in every match in that stadium has been terrible), the number of turnovers conceded and simple unforced errors.

    Ritchie was awesome. Graham, Laidlaw, Hogg, Gray, Bradbury, Blade and Maitland were very good, too. I think that was Johnson’s worst game in a Scotland shirt, though. Very unusual. Even with his limited number of caps, though, he must have enough credit to still be first choice.

    That’s the second game that Gauzere has issued our opponents with a red card and a yellow card and yet I’ve still thought he’s been poor.

    Still, at least our RWC hopes are still alive. We’ll need to deliver a better performance against Japan, but it’s doable.

    1. Everything is wide open and all to play for, I believe Scotland can go all the way to the final!

      I think it is their time we have never had such a team and we have that phyche.

      Consider how long the team has been building its belief for…since Vernon started.

      ‘Nemo me impune lacessit’

      1. Get Carried away if you like Frozen North but one solid win against Samoa doesn’t mean we are now world beaters. We’ve gone from zero to hero again with some. We’re somewhere in the middle and we’ve got one match to make our tournament. Then who knows New Zealand may somehow give us a bone or two and we somehow beat them.

  21. We got the result we were all hoping for. And a proper Tier One side Test performance, in the first half especially, and in difficult playing conditions. Back row was immense today. Scrum went a bit meh after APN went off. Don’t think we lost a single line-out on our own throw.
    Well done, lads.

  22. Phew – we got there in the end.

    RWC need to investigate why that roof was closed though – something very dodgy about that.

  23. Great result under some serious pressure in tricky conditions. Everyone of us would have been delighted to take a bonus point win to nil before kick-off.

    Hope they get the rehydration and rest sorted this week as there’s lots still to do. Also hope Dell is ok and there are no more injures.

    Need bonus point and big score difference against Russia.

  24. Was struggling to think of the last time Scotland nilled a team in the first half, let alone the whole game, especially away from home.

    Hopefully a new benchmark has been set on how to start a match.

  25. Great result under severe pressure but lack of tmo intervention for the illegal boot to ball when Reid was going for the base of the post could have cost us – a sure penalty try & yellow card

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