Samoa set for blast off
September 13, 2011
Fuimaono-Sapolu led the celebrations as Samoa beat Australia in July © Getty Images
Samoa will launch their Rugby World Cup campaign against Namibia at the Rotorua International Stadium on Wednesday.
After the lull of a late start to their World Cup, Samoa have a hectic schedule with a crucial match-up against Wales on Sunday following their opening game against Namibia. But coach Dickie Taufa is refusing to be distracted by the looming Welsh Dragon and has named a full strength team to face the Welwitschias - the same team that claimed a famous 32-23 win over Australia in July.
Namibia, who are still looking for their first Rugby World Cup win, began this campaign with a 49-25 defeat to Fiji on Saturday. The Welwitschias struggled to live with the pace and power of Fiji after staying in contention in the early stages thanks to the boot of Theuns Kotze. Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt has opted to bulk-up his side forward and inject pace into the backs for the threat of Samoa.
Samoa - Player to Watch: Seilala Mapusua is preferred to the talented Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu at inside centre and the abrasive but skilful centre has the ability to blast over the gainline as well as unleash the pace of the wide men.
Samoa - Team News: Coach Dickie Taufa names the same team that defeated Australia in July with Leicester Tigers' Alesana Tuilagi and London Irish's Sailosi Tagicakibau lining up on the wings. They are joined in the back three by former Sale Sharks fullback Paul Williams. London Wasps prop Zak Taulafo packs down alongside captain Mahonri Schwalger and Anthony Perenise in the front row while club-mate Dan Leo is in the second-row with Kane Thompson and Ospreys signing George Stowers is at No.8. Gloucester centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu can only find a place on the bench alongside Toulouse's Census Johnston.
Namibia - Player to Watch: Predictably Namibia captain and Saracens flanker Jacques Burger was his side's top tackler against Fiji and he will once again have to get through a mountain of work with Samoa boasting dangerous strike runners throughout their side.
Namibia - Team News: Second-row Nico Esterhuyse drops to the bench as Henk Franken comes in for his first cap while flanker Tinus du Plessis and wing Conrad Marais are dropped from the side. Jacques Nieuwenhuis shifts from No.8 to flanker and Llewellyn Winkler moves from the bench into the starting side. PJ van Lill will wear the No.8 jumper and TC Losper has been named on the bench.
Key Battle: Namibia fly-half Theuns Kotze kicked with great accomplishment against Fiji - landing two penalties and three drop goals and finding distance and accuracy in his punting - and he will look to pin Samoa's dangerous runners back in their own half. While opposite number Tusi Pisi is certain to take up a more aggressive, front foot approach.
Trivia: Kotze became only the fourth player to drop three goals in a Rugby World Cup match against Fiji - following in the footsteps of Jonny Wilkinson, Jannie De Beer and Juan Martin Hernandez.
Stats: Alesana Tuilagi is fifth on Samoa all-time top try scorers list with 12 touch downs in 22 matches - still 17 short of Samoa legend Brian Lima.
"He's a monster and he's got a bit of speed. He's quite brainy, too, and rugby-smart. You just give him the ball and let him do his thing," - Samoa scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i predicts a big performance from Alesana Tuilagi
"The No.8 (van Lill) that is in now is an excellent ball carrier, and the wing (Winkler) he brought in is really quick and can use his speed. On the kick chases we want to pressurise Samoa." - Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt reveals the reasons for his selection changes
Prediction: Samoa to kick-start their World Cup campaign with a ruthless showing against Namibia and set up a mouth-watering clash with a Welsh side wounded by defeat to South Africa in their opening match.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength
'Nothing can prepare you for the noise of the Millennium Stadium though, you just can't hear anything." Tom Hamilton talks to Cory Allen