Wales look to bounce back against Samoa
November 15, 2012
Ryan Jones is set for a huge personal milestone on Friday evening © Getty Images
Wales will look to regain some face after their loss to Argentina when they entertain Samoa at the Millennium Stadium on Friday evening.
Interim Wales coach Rob Howley saw his side slump to a 26-12 defeat to the Pumas last Saturday and also watched star lock Alun-Wyn Jones limp off with a shoulder injury that will sideline him for a number of months. It was their fourth Test defeat on the trot after their 3-0 series loss to the Wallabies in June and with matches against the All Blacks and then the Wallabies on consecutive weekends after Friday night's game, Howley will hope that his side re-find the same sort of form that saw them secure the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam.
Samoa were also in action last weekend and they cantered to a 42-14 win over Canada at Colwyn Bay. It was a memorable match for Robert Lilomaiava in particular who scored four tries on the night. While the Pacific Islanders are without star duo former Leicester wing Alesana Tuilagi and ex-London Irish centre Seilala Mapusua, they still boast more than enough quality to cause the Welsh some problems.
Wales - Player to Watch: Dan Biggar has been given the fly-half reins and while he is one of the form No.10s in the RaboDirect PRO12, he has rarely been given the chance to shine on the Test stage. Amid reported interest from France for his services, Biggar will look to shine from the pivot position and cement his status as Wales' in-form fly-half.
Wales - Team News: Howley has made eight changes to the side that lost to Argentina with Ryan Jones skippering the side and Sam Warburton dropped to the bench. Jones starts in place of the injured Josh Turnbull while Bradley Davies fills in for the sidelined Alun-Wyn Jones. In the front-row, Richard Hibbard and Paul James start in place of Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins respectively. And it's all-change in the half-backs with Ospreys fly-half Biggar getting the nod over Rhys Priestland and Mike Phillips starting in place of Tavis Knoyle. Ashley Beck is also given a chance in the centres and will partner Jamie Roberts with Scott Williams relegated to the replacements. On the bench, Perpignan lock Luke Charteris is included alongside Ken Owens and Scott Andrews.
Samoa - Player to Watch: Samoa scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i will run out against some of his Ospreys team-mates on Friday evening and he will hope to take his impressive PRO12 form onto the international field.
Samoa - Team News: Fotuali'i comes in for Jeremy Su'a, while Maurie Fa'asavalu replaces Tivani Foma'i in the back-row. Paul Williams returns from injury to start in the centres, while there is no place in the starting line-up for Robert Lilomaiava, who scored four tries against Canada, as captain David Lemi takes a spot on the flanks. Faatoina Autagavaia is selected at fullback with James So'oialo suspended after being found guilty of a shoulder charge against Canada. Daniel Leo is also handed a start and he will join Teofilo Paulo in the second row.
Key Battle: Harlequins flanker Mo Fa'asavalu will come up against Justin Tipuric at openside. Tipuric, preferred to Warburton, is one of Europe's shining lights at No.7 while Fa'asavalu will hope to cause all sorts of havoc with his blend of power and deft handling skills - it should be a fascinating match up.
Trivia: The loss against Argentina moved Wales down to sixth in the IRB rankings and a win against Samoa will not be enough to propel them back into the all-important top four ahead of the draw for the 2015 World Cup in December.
Stats: Ryan Jones will lead Wales for a record 29th time on Friday night. He will surpass Ieuan Evans who captained Wales on 28 occasions while Colin Charvis and interim coach Howley are third on 22.
"The key thing for us is to play our game. Argentina playing so well did not do us any favours. Wales will be smarting over that and making sure they get things right, they made a heck of a lot of errors last week but are a top tier nation and we don't believe they will play like that again." - Samoa assistant coach Darryl Suasua
Prediction: Wales should bounce back from their defeat to Argentina and win by a margin of 10-15 points
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