Wales primed for Samoa clash
September 16, 2011
Wales were left despondent after their defeat to South Africa © Getty Images
Wales face Samoa in what promises to be a pivotal, and hugely physical, clash in Pool D on Sunday.
Warren Gatland's men suffered an agonising 17-16 defeat to South Africa in their opening match of the tournament after Rhys Priestland missed a straight-forward drop-goal and a penalty from James Hook was contentiously not given. But despite the anguish at an opportunity gone, the level of performance will have created optimism within the camp for the remainder of the World Cup.
And they will have an immediate chance to exorcise the demons of that defeat when they face Samoa in Hamilton. Wales will have to put in another strong display against a talented Samoan side, who look like their main rivals for second spot in Pool D.
Samoa scored six tries as they demolished Namibia 49-12 in their opening match of the tournament with Leicester Tigers winger Alesana Tuilagi running in a hat-trick for the Pacific Islanders. Samoa have also tasted victory over big-game opposition having beaten Australia 32-23 in July, prior to the Wallabies going on to claim the Tri-Nations title.
Wales - Player to Watch: Jamie Roberts was back to his best against the Springboks, hitting the gainline with pace and bursting through the South African midfield on a number of occasions. If he can make similar inroads against a formidable Samoan midfield it will give Wales a great attacking platform.
Wales - Team News: Wales keep faith with the same starting XV that lost to South Africa with the solitary change coming on the bench where Gethin Jenkins takes over from Ryan Bevington. The Cardiff Blues loose-head prop, who has been sidelined with a calf injury, has not played for Wales since they faced New Zealand ten months ago. Elsewhere, Warren Gatland's show of faith sees Rhys Priestland retain the No.10 jersey alongside Mike Phillips and Toby Faletau continue at No.8.
Samoa - Player to Watch: Leicester Tigers winger Alesana Tuilagi trampled over Namibia in the opening round of matches and will again be Samoa's main attacking threat. But this time he will face the formidable presence of George North.
Samoa - Team News: Samoa make just one change to their starting XV. Ofisa Treviranus replaces Taiasina Tuifua at blindside flanker with the latter dropping to the bench after sustaining a rib injury during Samoa's opening victory over Namibia. On the bench Jeremy Sua replaces scrum-half Junior Poluleuligaga.
Key Battle: Samoa No.8 George Stowers is heading to the Ospreys following the World Cup and he faces an intriguing battle with young Wales No.8 Toby Faletau who so impressed against the much-vaunted Springbok back-row.
Trivia: Samoa have beaten Wales in both of their Rugby World Cup meetings.
Stats: Wales No.8 Toby Faletau made 19 carries against the Springboks - the most in the opening round of matches.
"We were extremely disappointed to lose last week against the Springboks," he said. "But we did maintain momentum, with aspects of the performance providing a host of positive points to take into Sunday against Samoa." - Wales boss Warren Gatland looks on the bright side after last weekend's heart-breaking defeat by the world champions
""The team that wants it more will come out on top. I'm pretty happy with the way the boys played in their first game." - Samao's Mahonri Schwalger has taken great encouragement out of his side's win over Namibia
Prediction: Wales to go some way in making up for last weekend's loss to South Africa with a performance and victory that puts them on course to qualify for the knock-out stages.
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