Preview: England v Samoa

Date published: November 19 2010

All the hard work finally paid off for England last week as a strong performance did for Australia. Next up is Samoa at Twickenham.

All the hard work finally paid off for England last Saturday as a strong effort did for Australia. Next on the schedule are the Samoans at HQ.

It really was a display of intent against Oz as a confident running game and raw hunger oozed out of their game. It has also given seen their odds slashed to 10/1 with several bookmakers of lifting the World Cup in New Zealand next year.
So are they now the real deal?

Well it was typical Martin Johnson in pouring cool water on all the hype and positive questions being asked of him during the post-match: “You can get carried away with these things. We played pretty well, there was a good tempo from the start.”

Pretty well? Come on Martin, even the press in Australia were impressed by that performance. But that cautiousness is what England will need right now as the Samoans made it very difficult for Ireland to pull away from them in Dublin. The encouraging news for Johnson now is that his side are arguably not in the same bracket as their neighbours from across the Irish Sea, standing them in really good stead of winning the 2011 Six Nations.

Not bad for a side that has won only two of its last seven international fixtures – both victories coming against, you've guessed it, those Wallabies.

History is most certainly with England when they meet Samoa too as they have won all five games they have played against the islanders. It's also worth mentioning that England's biggest win over Samoa was a 40-3 one in 2005, which was the last time Samoa visited.

That brings me to my next point; how little these two have met. Five times in fifteen years, and three of those were in a RWC. Add to that they have are set to play just seven games in 2010 – just one being against a top ten outfit on home soil – and it hardly breeds progress.

It is clear that Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua's group has the capabilities of challenging the top sides if given fixtures in Apia. But that debate is for another day as HQ is the daunting task that awaits Samoa, who will look to their English-based contingent for some help.

Ones to watch:

For England: He has been tried out at number thirteen for club side Bath over recent weeks and that seems to have impressed England boss Martin Johnson enough to give him a run in that position wearing white. Matt Banahan comes in for Mike Tindall this week and while many would of liked to have seen Delon Armitage given a run at outside centre, the physicality of him alongside Shontayne Hape could be a very interesting watch.

For Samoa: Census Johnston was unavailable for Samoa last week due to the unfortunate passing of his sister and his return to bench duty will be a massive boost to the islanders. The former Saracens and now Toulouse man always makes an impact when wearing number seventeen so keep an eye out for him. However we have gone for David Lemi, who will be his usual busy self against an in-form Mark Cueto.

Head-to-head: Two clashes have caught the eye and they are Chris Ashton against Alesana Tuilagi and Shontayne Hape against Seilala Mapusua. Saints winger Ashton was exceptional last weekend while Tuilagi scored against Ireland so both are enjoying life at the moment. Meanwhile, Hape played a solid 80 minutes for England but will be up against one of the best in the business in the form of London Irish's key centre. Enjoy that one.

Recent results:

2007: England won 44-22 in Nantes
2005: England won 40-3 in London
2003: England won 35-22 in Melbourne
1995: England won 27-9 in London
1995: England won 44-22 in Durban

Prediction: The hosts are on a high after last week. England by 30!

The teams:

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 (c), 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 Dave 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 Mapasua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Kahn Fotualii, 8 George Stowers, 7 Manaia Salavea, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Filipo Levi, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (c), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Afa Aiono, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Jamie Helleur, 22 Gavin Williams.

Date: Saturday, November 20
Venue: Twickenam, London
Kick-off: 14:30 (14:30 GMT)
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)