PREVIEW: Scotland v Samoa

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 07:22

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has told his side to prepare for a typically proud Samoa at Murrayfield on Saturday regardless of the financial meltdown that has engulfed the Pacific islanders. 

This week saw the Samoa Rugby Union declared bankrupt by Chairman Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao, also the country's Prime Minister.

"We are bankrupt," Malielegao told the Samoa Observer as he launched an appeal for public donations.

"It means the union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play," he added ahead of a Samoa tour that also includes a match against Romania as well as a showpiece Test with England at Twickenham.

England's Rugby Football Union has reportedly agreed a £75 000 goodwill payment with the Samoa Rugby Union ahead of the November 25 match, while the England players selected for that Test are considering whether to hand over a portion of their match fee.

Meanwhile it is understood the Scottish Rugby Union are covering Samoa's tour costs while they are in Scotland.

There have long been concerns about how professional Rugby Union has exacerbated the wealth gap between the likes of rich nations such as England and France compared to poorer countries such as Samoa and Fiji.

But former Scotland playmaker Townsend said he hoped a way could be found to return Samoa to solvency.  

"We want every country doing well, especially a nation like Samoa that has produced so many good rugby players and so many great wins over the years," he said. 

"Let's hope they get through this in a much better state than they seem to be in right now."

Townsend added: "I believe professional rugby can and has enhanced opportunities for players in the south seas and the amount of Fijian players, Tongans and Samoans playing in Europe now at a high level has really increased over the years.

"The islanders have a real affinity with the game but their strengths as individuals are brought out.

"They are a huge part of the worldwide game of rugby and it's a big challenge taking them on this week because we know how proud they are but also what a good team they are," said Townsend, citing how Samoa had pushed Scotland desperately close before losing 33-36 in a 2015 World Cup pool match.

Meanwhile, World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said the global governing body had budgeted about £7 million ($9.2 million) for Samoan rugby between 2015 and 2019, up 30 percent on the previous four-yearly World Cup cycle.

But while mismanagement is an issue, teams such as Samoa lack the economic clout that comes with the sponsorship opportunities and huge fan bases enjoyed by larger nations.

Gosper warned redistributing funds in a world where 90 percent of rugby's revenue was generated by the 10 tier one nations was no easy task.

"It's a fact of life. There's an economic difference in the unions in some parts of the world versus the unions in other parts of the world," he said.

"There isn't sufficient money to create the redistribution that may well lead to an equalisation of pay," the Australian added.

"There are market forces that are very hard to swim against."

On the field, Edinburgh prop Darryl Marfo is set to make his international debut in what will be Townsend's first home match as Scotland coach.

Samoa counterpart Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua has included two debutants in his starting XV - lock Josh Tyrell and prop Donald Brighouse - while Melani Matavao and AJ Alatimu could win their first caps off the bench in a team captained by lock Chris Vui.

Players to watch: 

For Scotland: Fullback Stuart Hogg is one of the best in the business at fullback, while centre Huw Jones is dangerous with ball in hand in the midfield. No.6 John Barclay brings some much-needed physicality up front, while prop Darryl Marfo will be making his debut.

For Samoa: Wing Paul Perez is a powerhouse out wide, while Kieron Fonotia has some great skills to unlock any defence. Tim Nanai-Williams is an exciting player in the No.10 jersey, while Jack Lam is an experienced campaigner in the No.8 jersey.

Head to head: There is plenty of talent in the midfield with Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar up against Kieron Fonotia and Reynold Lee-Lo. There will also be two very different flyhalves on display in the form of Tim Nanai Williams and Finn Russell.

Recent results:
2015: Scotland won 36-33, Newcastle (World Cup pool match)
2013: Samoa won 27-17, Durban
2012: Scotland won 17-16, Apia
2010: Scotland won 19-16, Aberdeen
2005: Scotland won 18-11, Edinburgh
2004: Scotland won 38-3, Wellington
2000: Scotland won 31-8, Edinburgh
1999: Scotland won 35-20, Edinburgh (World Cup quarterfinal play-off)
1995: 15-15 draw, Edinburgh
1991: Scotland won 28-6, Edinburgh

Prediction: Scotland will have too much class and they should win by at least 12 points.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo. 
Replacements: 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.

Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemai, 10 Tim Nanai Williams, 9 Pele Cowley, 8 Jack Lam, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Piula Fa'Asalele, 5 Chris Vui (captain), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Jordan Lay.
Replacements: 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.

Date: Saturday, November 11
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 04.30 Samoa Time, Sunday, November 12)
Expected weather: It will be mostly sunny with a high of 7°C and a low of 2°C.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Agence France-Presse @rugby365com