Preview: England v Samoa
Euphoria and the associated public hype may have followed England’s convincing 35-18 win over Australia, but coach Martin Johnson has made every effort to quell the ecstasy of the English media and public.
England were outstanding last week, but Johnson – always pragmatic and realistic as a player – has taken that through to his mantle as coach.
“A perfect game? Calm down,” he said in the aftermath.
On their much talked about length of the field try by Chris Asthon, Johnson also had this to say about what he was thinking when the wing dived over: “I was thinking that we’ve got to control the re-start and get the next points on the board.
“Everyone wants to talk about the glory moments, but they wouldn’t happen if the nuts and bolts weren’t in place. Big things can happen when the little things are right.”
The Samoans have some talented individuals and kept a floundering Irish side to a 20-10 defeat last week, but it’s unlikely they’ll have the consistent ability up front to deliver enough quality ball to trouble the English.
Their powerful backs such as Alesana Tuilagi also couldn’t build momentum last week in Dublin, only gaining 267 metres, compared to England’s running metres standing at 667.
The Samoans also turned over much ball, but the English pack was omnipotent at the breakdowns last week, supplying plenty of quick possession for Ben Youngs and co.
Much will come down to how new flanks Hendre Fourie and James Haskell combine, but the English have the correct systems in place to ensure they receive quality ball.
The expected drizzle will also suit the English pack, while Samoa are unlikely to get much ball to trouble the English.
Most importantly, Johnson, and by extension the side, have kept perspective: “Yes, people will take notice of that performance. But if don’t produce next week, they’ll take notice of that.”
There’s too much at stake for England for them to relax now, and this performance will be another building block as they eye a win over more Tri-Nations opposition in the Springboks next week.
Players to watch: South African born and bred Hendre Fourie will make his starting debut. He’s unlikely to oust regular captain Lewis Moody, but this is a big day for Fourie.
Head to head: Seilala Mapasua versus Shontayne Hape should be an intriguing match up. The pair will know each other well from their clashes between London Irish and Bath in the Premiership, and both will be vital in giving their side front-foot ball with their direct approach. Hape delivered his best international performance against Australia, and will be keen to replicate that against a more physical centre than Matt Giteau.
2007: England won 44-22, Nantes
2005: England won 40-3, Twickenham
2003: England won 35-22, Melbourne
1995: England won 27-9, Twickenham
1995: England won 44-22, Durban
rugby365.com Prediction: England have never lost to Samoa and will have too much power and cohesion for a side lacking quality preparation time. England by 15.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nick Easter (captain), 7 Hendre Fourie, 6 James Haskell, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson, 17 Dan Cole, 18 David Attwood, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Danny Care, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Delon Armitage.
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 David Lemi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Manaia Salavea, 6 Ofisa Trevarinus, 5 Kane Thompsen, 4 Filipo Lavea Levi, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (captain), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Iosefa Tekori, 19 Afa Aiono, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Gavin Williams, 22 Fautua Otto.
Date: Saturday 20 November
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Minimum of 6°C and high of 12°C with drizzle
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
By Grant Ball