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Samoa hope to get in Aki's face as they go 'all guns blazing' against Ireland

The Samoans are keen to follow in Japan’s footsteps with a shock win.

GREG FEEK JOKED recently that Joe Schmidt is fond of naming opposition players in the build-up to Ireland games, underlining that he and his squad have done their homework and are paying due respect by being well-prepared.

With Samoa lurking in Ireland’s final pool game on Saturday, Schmidt’s options for name-dropping will be a little more limited given the toll on Steve Jackson’s squad so far.

Having lost number eight Afa Amosa to a serious knee injury during their opening win against Russia, the Samoans then saw impactful centre Rey Lee-Lo and powerful hooker Motu Matu’u suspended for dangerous high tackles that somehow only saw them yellow-carded. Their tournaments were ended by three-game bans.

japan-rugby-wcup-japan-samoa Samoa perform the Siva Tau. Source: Shuji Kajiyama

Star fullback Tim Nanai-Williams is a worry for the Ireland game after failing a HIA during last weekend’s defeat to hosts Japan, when the Clermont man was hit late in a tackle that was not sanctioned, much to Samoa’s annoyance.

Wing Ed Fidow escaped a suspension despite a citing commissioner’s warning post-Russia plus a red card [two yellows] against Scotland, but Samoa are clearly a little depleted ahead of their final pool game, which should go ahead even if a change of venue is required.

The Samoans are down, certainly, but they’re not out just yet and they will attempt to deliver one final showing of their ability on Saturday against Schmidt’s men.

They were angry with the crooked scrum feed call by Jaco Peyper against them in that defeat to Japan, which Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said was “incredible,” and the sense is very much of a frustrated Samoa looking to go out with a bang on Saturday.

Ireland need to win to secure their quarter-final place but the Samoans are intent on causing the same kind of shock hosts Japan did with their 19-12 win over Schmidt’s men.

“The Japanese did something amazing and we’re hoping to follow their footsteps and get one on top of Ireland as well,” said Samoa lock Josh Tyrell.

“Anything is possible and we’re just going to go out there and enjoy, hopefully giving something back to the people in Samoa.

“At the moment the boys are a bit gutted [about losing to Japan]. We know that we could have done more. That’s something that we’ve got to take on the chin but we’re always going to go all guns blazing this weekend against Ireland.”

Ireland, for their part, are taking the challenge seriously.

japan-rugby-wcup-japan-samoa The Samoans will bring some real pride to Saturday's game. Source: Shuji Kajiyama

There had been some chat that Schmidt and his coaching staff would wrap key men in cotton wool this weekend but Andy Farrell dismissed that notion yesterday, stressing how important a game this is for Ireland.

“They are a real threatening side,” said Farrell of the Samoans. “If you go back to their [World Cup warm-up] game against Australia, you can see what type of style of play that they want to play.

“Everyone thinks that they are big and physical, and you’ve got to win some contacts against them or hang on in there in some contacts against them, but they are a lot more than that.

“They are an expansive side that play very wide. They have got the skill to be able to do that and, as individuals, their footwork tends to be great as well.

“On the back of winning the collisions, if you don’t end up doing that, their offloading game comes into it as well.

“They have got good shape on both sides of the ball. On attack, they play to the short sides quite a bit and have had good success. They are a dangerous team all round.” 

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It will be a big occasion for Ireland’s Bundee Aki, of course, with his parents hailing from Samoa. The Connacht man knows several of this squad and they will be looking to exchange some big contacts with him.

“I played against Bundee back in school,” said Tyrell. “I looked up to him when he was at the Chiefs and I’m hoping to get in his face this weekend.”

If the fixture goes ahead in Fukuoka, as scheduled, Ireland will also have to contend with the poor pitch at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, which cut up badly again last week during France’s win over the US, having done so as Italy beat Canada earlier in the World Cup.

france-v-united-states-pool-b-2019-rugby-world-cup-fukuoka-hakatanomori-stadium There have been issues with the pitch at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium. Source: Adam Davy

World Rugby said both France and the US were happy with “the integrity” of the pitch pre-match, with a new 15-metre channel having been put down since the Italy game there.  

“While the pitch is not perfect, it is impressive how it has coped with the significant adverse weather sustained as a result of the remnants of Typhoon 17,” said World Rugby.

Schmidt must be hoping that Typhoon Hagibis steers well clear of Fukuoka because further rain would make it truly difficult to play here and likely only encourage Samoa in their bid to cause an upset.

While Jackson’s men can certainly play with width, poor conditions and a poor pitch can be a real leveler.

All in all, Ireland will have a few concerns and Farrell is certain the Samoans are a potential stumbling block.

“If I was in their camp, certainly if I was playing for Samoa, this is their last game of the World Cup and you want to be going back home with a smile on your face so I’ve absolutely no doubt they want this to be their best performance of the competition.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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