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England v Samoa - teams and prediction

WORLD CUP, ROUND FIVE: With England already guaranteed a quarterfinal spot, Saturday’s Pool D match will be all about Samoa.

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The two teams will lock horns on Saturday in the final pool match in Lille.

England secured their place in the knock-out phase with some clinical performances against Argentina, Japan and Chile.

The 2003 World Cup winners certainly surprised with their victories given the disastrous World Cup warm-up results. They recorded just three wins in nine games after Steve Borthwick took over as coach from the sacked Eddie Jones.

They bounced back and Borthwick’s side has again shown they can’t be denied as contenders for the World Cup title.

However, despite their current form,  England refuses to underestimate the Pacific Islanders.

“Whilst we are of course pleased with our results and qualification into the pool stages, we want to continue our improvement with a positive performance against a difficult and in-form Samoa team,” England head coach Steve Borthwick said.

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“Samoa are renowned for their physicality and this last game in the pool stages will be an excellent test for us as we continue in our World Cup journey.”

Farrell and Jonny’s record

Borthwick has made 14 changes to the side that recorded a win over Chile. Tom Curry will return from his two-match suspension to earn his 49th test cap, while captain Owen Farrell moves to centre to give space to the inform George Ford at flyhalf for the first time since March 2021.

Farrell requires two more points to become England’s all-time leading point-scorer and end Jonny Wilkinson’s 22-year reign.

“It’s an opportunity this week for the first time in a little while playing George Ford and Owen Farrell together at 10 and 12. I’m excited to see that partnership grow,” Bortwick said.

The coach added that Farrell would be kicking at goal.

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When asked about the record, Farrell said: “I’ve not given it too much thought. It’s not something you like to think about too much before anything’s done. My sole concentration is on the game at the weekend and preparing for what’s a massive test against Samoa.

“The one thing I will say is, it’s been an honour to have the chance to play for England as much as I have, to be in the vicinity of that record.”

The third spot

Samoa, meanwhile, have third place in their sights – and qualification for World Cup 2027 in Australia – knowing that an automatic place at the next tournament is out of their hands. Argentina and Japan will have the final say on Sunday when Pool D’s second quarterfinalist will be decided.

Head coach Seilala Mapusua has named an all-new front row of Jordan Lay, Sama Malolo, and captain Michael Alaalatoa and a new second row of Sam Slade and Brian Alainu’u’ese for the match in Lille, among nine changes to his starting XV from the team that lost 22-28 against Japan. Only Theo McFarland, Fritz Lee, Steven Luatua, Jonathan Taumateine, Tumua Manu and Duncan Paia’aua retain their places.

Quarterfinal qualification and an Australia berth ultimately rests on the result of Japan v Argentina in Nantes. But a surprise win for Samoa here would pile the pressure on both sides at Stade de la Beaujoire.

“It’s a crucial game, there’s a lot on the line,” Mapusua said, adding: “Not just an opportunity against England, who we’ve never beaten before, but there’s also automatic qualification for World Cup 2027.

“But we’ve made some really good changes, including a six-two split on our bench. Looking at who we’re playing against, they’re going to have a strong and well-drilled forward pack, as England do. So that’s an area we want to make sure we can combat England in.”

He added: “We know that England are a quality team and are riding a wave of confidence at the moment. With the way they’re playing, we know if we don’t show up, we’ll get found out very quickly. So we’ve been working hard over the last week and making sure we play the way we want to play, especially around the contact area.”

Player to watch:

For England: Captain Owen Farrell will take over the No.12 jersey and will have to deliver one impressive performance for Steve Borthwick. The utility back also has a chance to become England’s all-time leading point scorer, ending Jonny Wilkinson’s 22-year reign. Following his performances against Argentina and Japan, flyhalf Goerge Ford has proven to be a game-changer and will be closely monitored by Samoa. He has been incredible at the 2023 event, averaging 13.7 points per game. Flank Tom Curry returns from his two-match ban and he would want to get some valuable game time.

For Samoa: The all-new front row which consists of Jordan Lay, Sama Malolo and captain Michael Alaalatoa will be out to provide the team with some much-needed dominance at the scrums. Samoa will also look to No.8 Steven Luatua, who plays his club rugby in the Premiership for Bristol Bears. In the backline, the halfback partnership of Jonathan Taumateine and former All Blacks star Lima Sopoaga can dictate proceedings and could be a threat for England.

Key RWC info

  • England remain unmoved in sixth in the World Rugby Rankings however, Samoa have dropped two places to 14th following their six-point loss against Japan.
  •  Both head coaches played against each other in this fixture at WC 2007. Seilala Mapusua started at outside centre that day, while Steve Borthwick came off the bench.
  • This will be the ninth meeting between England and Samoa in Test rugby, with England winning each of the previous eight clashes, one only against Italy(30) have England played more Test matches without losing than they have against Samoa

 

England v Samoa - teams and prediction

England v Samoa - teams and prediction

Prediction

@rugby365com: England by 15 points.

Teams:

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Joe Marchant, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Martin, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence

Samoa: 15 Duncan Paia’aua, 14 Nigel Ah-Wong, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Neria Fomai, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jonathan Taumateine, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Fritz Lee, 6 Theo McFarland, 5 Brian Alainu’u’ese, 4 Sam Slade, 3 Michael Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Sama Malolo, 1 Jordan Lay
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 James Lay, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Sootala Fa’aso’o, 20 Alamanda Motuga, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 Christian Leali’ifano, 23 Miracle Faiilagi

Date: Saturday, October 7
Venue: Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille
Kick-off: 17.45 (15.45 GMT; 16.45 UK & Ireland time; 04.45 Sunday, October 8 WST)
Expected weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 23°C
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

Additional reporting: @WorldRugby

 

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