Samoa and Canada clash for the first time in more than a decade and only the third time ever when they meet at Colwyn Bay in Wales.
Samoa and Canada clash for the first time in more than a decade and only the third time ever when they meet at Colwyn Bay in Wales on Friday.
This match will be part of a double-header which also features Russia and the United States in the early game.
The south sea islanders, who won both previous encounters against the Canucks in 1999 and 2000, are currently three places higher than their opponents in the IRB rankings in tenth position and are favourites to win, to build momentum ahead of next week's match against Wales in Cardiff.
Samoa coach Stephen Betham has, however, left out some of his more experienced players and will field four debutants – lock Filo Paulo, flanker Tivani Foma'i, left wing Robert Lilomaiava and midfielder and rugby league convert Setaimata Sa – while loosehead Sakaria Taulafo will captain the side.
But even a second-string Samoan side is a dangerous one. Their big strength is their physicality and if the Canadians want to be successful they must not try to match them in that department.
Samoa are still without stalwarts like Mahonri Schwalger, who led Samoa at last year's World Cup, and centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu.
The experienced duo were dropped earlier this year for criticising Samoa's World Cup team management and the IRB.
Fuimaono-Sapolu believes although the performances of senior backs Tusi Pisi (fly-half) and George Pisi (outside centre) will be crucial for Samoa, much will depend on the forwards' showing.
“The key is Tusi Pisi at 10 and his relationship with either Jeremy Su'a or Kahn (Fotuali'i) at nine,” he told Planet Rugby in an exclusive interview.
“(Also) George Pisi at 13.
“Samoan backs are generally world class. But northern hemisphere tours are all about the forwards. Tom Coventry as forwards coach has been wonderful for Samoa in recent times.”
Fuimaono-Sapolu feels London Irish back-rower Ofisa Treviranus is a player who could make a big impact in this match and in Samoa's other end-of-year Tests against Wales and France.
“There is so much talent in the pack,” he said.
“I hope Ofisa Treviranus has a big tour. His testing scores (at training) are always quicker than the wingers!”
Canada must not be underestimated however and Fuimaono-Sapolu feels his countrymen will have to be at their best to beat Kieran Crowley's troops.
“Canada are a great team,” he added.
“Pretty much in the same boat as us, Samoa. We've always said if America and Canada took rugby serious, they'd have 7ft locks, 6ft6 props and world class sprinting wingers.
“They had a great showing at the Rugby World Cup. Samoa really have to hone in on their style they want to play.”
Canada have made nine changes from their last Test against Georgia in June. There's a new front-row with Ray Barkwill starting at hooker alongside props Doug Wooldridge and Hubert Buydens while Jon Phelan comes into the second-row in the only other change up front.
Amongst the backs, there's a new half-back pairing in Sean White (scrum-half) an Connor Braid (fly-half) while Ciaran Hearn slots in at outside centre and Matt Evans and Taylor Paris are the new wings.
Canada suffered a setback when loose forward Jebb Sinclair, who recently finished a stint with Western Province in the Currie Cup, was ruled unavailable as he did not receive his visa in time to return to the UK from South Africa.
Added to that, other regulars like utility-back DTH van der Merwe (hamstring) and back-rower Adam Kleeberger (back) are struggling with injuries while coach Crowley has opted to rest veteran lock Jamie Cudmore for Canada's UK tour which also includes matches against Russia at Colwyn Bay and the New Zealand Maori in Oxford.
Canucks manager Gareth Rees knows his side will have to deliver an impressive performance if they want to be victorious against Samoa.
“They are a very good side, all full professionals,” he said.
“They are a confident side, as we saw during their performances in the Pacific Nations Cup.
“They have a very strong coaching staff, with a pretty impressive group of leaders there.”
Players to watch:
For Samoa: London Irish back-rower Ofisa Treviranus is a powerful runner who could prove a handful for Canada's defence if he builds up a head of steam. Treviranus is also an adept defender and don't be surprised if he rattles some of the Canucks' bones with some big hits.
For Canada: Captain and number eight Aaron Carpenter's leadership will be important but he will also be expected to get his team over the advantage line with ball in hand. This is no mean feat as the Samoans enjoy the physical nature of defence but if Carpenter's tight-five can give him a solid platform he might prove a handful.
Head-to-head: Although they won't be direct opponents the midfield battle between Canada's Phil Mackenzie and Samoa's George Pisi will be pivotal. Both are plying their trades in the Premiership and their experience will be vital particularly in the early stages to help the younger players around them.
2000: Samoa won 41-22 in Apia
1999: Samoa won 17-13 in Vancouver
Prediction: Although Samoa are not fielding their strongest side, they should get the better of the Canucks who are also without some of their top players. Samoa to win by 12 points.
Samoa: 15 James Sooialo, 14 Paul Perez, 13 George Pisi, 12 Setaimata Sa, 11 Robert Lilomaiava, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Jeremy Su'a, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Fomai Tivaini, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Fa'atiga Lemalu, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo (c).
Replacements: 16 Ropeti Lafo, 17 James Johnston, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Alafoti Faosiliva, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Johnny Leota, 22 Fa'atoina Autagavaia.
Canada: 15 James Pritchard, 14 Taylor Paris, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Phil Mackenzie, 11 Matt Evans, 10 Connor Braid, 9 Sean White, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Chauncey O'Toole, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 Tyler Hotson, 4 Jon Phelan, 3 Doug Wooldridge, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Hamilton, 17 Jason Marshall, 18 Andrew Tiedemann, 19 Brett Beukeboom, 20 John Moonlight, 21 Eric Wilson, 22 Nick Blevins, 23 Jeff Hassler.
Date: Friday, November 9
Venue: Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, Wales
Weather: Moderate rain is expected. 11Â°C max
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
By David Skippers