Auckland is set to be jumping when Fiji and Samoa meet in what is a win-or-bust scenario for both these nations in the Pool of Death.
Auckland will be jumping on Sunday when Fiji and Samoa meet in what is a win-or-bust scenario for both these proud nations in the Pool of Death.
A full house is expected at Eden Park, meaning tens of thousands of fanatical expatriate fans will roar on what is shaping as one of the biggest physical battles of the group stage. Sights of car flags and general attire gives one a sense that this may match the atmosphere of last night.
“We've spent a bit of time making sure the hype is kept under control,” said Samoa assistant coach Tom Coventry.
“Both teams will want to play to a plan but we've just got to be conscious that the moment doesn't get on top of us.”
The match is make-or-break for both teams who have one win and one defeat from two games and need victory on Sunday to have a shot at qualifying.
“It's a huge game for both countries,” said Fiji captain Deacon Manu.
“There's a lot of support in New Zealand for both teams. It's going to be quite emotional for a lot of the guys out there, playing in front of so many people and in front of so many fans and family.”
Manu pledged Fiji would not abandon the famous running game which took them to a 36-18 win at the Pacific Nations Cup in July, while Samoa showed their intent by giving hulking Toulouse prop Census Johnston his first start of the World Cup. It's fairly been strange he hasn't started more in all honesty.
“When you look at the draw this is the main hinge-point of how the pool's going to go,” Manu said.
“It's going to be such a tough encounter up front and in the back line. There's probably not going to be much in it and there's going to be so much passion and emotion around.
“We've got to make sure we control that and really just stick to the game plan and believe we can do it.”
While historical results favour Fiji 25-17, Samoa are the form team after shocking Australia in July and running Wales close last weekend in Hamilton.
Samoa have to beat Fiji and defending champions South Africa to reach their first quarter-final in sixteen years, while Fiji need to win on Sunday and then against Wales to reach the last eight for the second time of asking. It is some ask for both teams.
“Before we arrived here we knew we were going to have to win three of the matches in our pool. We took care of Namibia in Rotorua and then we slipped up against Wales,” said Samoa's Coventry.
“So if we want to continue we have to win, it's as simple as that. I think the public know that and Fiji are in the same boat, so there's a lot to play for.”
Fiji named an all-new back-row among four changes to their pack and brought in veteran fly-half Nicky Little for another cap in the white shirt. His reliability could play a major role in how this game pans out but as a neutral it would be best advised to just sit back and enjoy.
Ones to watch:
For Fiji: At 35 years of age and with 70 caps in his cabinet, Sunday will see a start for the evergreen Nicky Little. One of the good guys in rugby, Little will play with his heart on his sleeve for Fiji and don't be surprised if he ups his game to a level many would not expect.
For Samoa: A strong performance in his previous outing means that Maurie Fa'asavalu will have momentum on his side when he runs out at Eden Park. The former St Helens rugby league star has to be respected for his power, speed and agility and his back-row battle with someone like Sisa Koyamaibole is one to keep an eye on. Sparks will be flying.
Head-to-head: We are on the wing for this one where devastating duo Napolioni Nalaga and Sailosi Tagicakibau collide. These two run hard, straight and with a bit of an island shuffle that cause many a defender lots of problems. Whether they cancel each other out is tough to say but if they don't excite, then you can always switch your attention over to the other touchline.
2011: Fiji won 36-18 in Suva
2010: Samoa won 31-9 in Apia
2009: Fiji won 19-14 in Lautoka
2008: Fiji won 34-17 in Lautoka
2007: Samoa won 8-3 in Apia
2006: Fiji won 23-20 in Suva
2005: Fiji won 21-15 in Suva
2005: Samoa won 36-10 in Apia
2004: Fiji won 29-3 in Suva
2002: Samoa won 22-12 in Nadi
2002: Fiji won 17-16 in Apia
Prediction: For the sake of the Pool. Samoa by 8!
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Mala Ravulo, 6 Netani Edward Talei, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Seko Kalou, 3 Deacon Manu (captain), 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Talemaitoga Dautu Tuapati, 17 Setefano Somoca, 18 Rupeni Nasiga, 19 Akapusi Qera, 20 Vitori Tomu Buatava, 21 Albert James Vulivuli, 22 Waisea Sedre Luveniyali.
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Faasavalu, 6 Taiasina Tuifua, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (captain), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Filipo Lavea Levi, 19 Manaia Salavea, 20 Jeremy Sua, 21 Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu, 22 James Sooialo.
Date: Sunday, September 25
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 15.00 (02.30 GMT)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Stuart Terheege (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)