Samoa host Georgia for the first time ever in a historic Test match at Apia Park on Saturday.
The excitement surrounding this clash has been building for some time now especially after Georgia’s good showing at last year’s World Cup in which they managed to beat both Namibia and Tonga.
The significance of this match is of vital importance for both team’s fortunes with Samoa looking to go into their Pacific Nations Cup opener against Fiji on June 18 with winning momentum while Georgia will want to continue with their impressive form after winning a sixth consecutive European Nations Cup title back in March.
Georgia will play further matches against the likes of Fiji and Tonga in the next two weeks and they will be introduced to the style of rugby in this match that they will come up against when they face off against the other two Pacific Island nations.
Samoa coach Alama Ieremia has introduced ten new players to the national team for this clash with four debutants in the starting team and six new players on the bench.
Full-back Albert Nikoro, scrum-half Dwayne Polataivao, number eight Jeff Lepa and loosehead prop Sam Aiono will all make their starting debuts for Samoa while David Lemi will captain the team from the left wing.
Faatiga Lemalu has a fantastic work rate and he is a powerful runner. The Sunwolves number eight is a good reader of the lineout and he will be pivotal to his team’s chances on Saturday. Lemalu will run out at lock for Samoa in this clash.
Meanwhile, Georgia have named Merab Kviriashvili to start at full-back on Saturday. Lasha Khmaladze will wear the fly-half jersey and flanker Shalva Sutiashvili will lead the team into battle alongside number eight Lasha Lomidze and blindside flank Giorgi Tkhilaishvili in the loose forwards.
Samoa are currently ranked 15th in the world while Georgia sit in 12th place according to World Rugby’s latest rankings which were released on Monday.
The two teams have only played each other twice before with the record now standing at one win apiece, Georgia look to be improving with every game, however Samoa should be too strong for them in front of their home crowd.
Players to watch:
For Samoa: Full-back Albert Nikoro will want to shine on the international stage and repay coach Alama Ieremia for the faith shown in him. The Western Force man rose to prominence with a well taken 59 metre penalty kick which sailed through the uprights when playing for Waikato against Canterbury in 2014 and he will be looking for a complete performance on his debut.
For Georgia: Inside centre Merab Sharikadze will look to take the ball to the line and create some good attacking opportunities. He put in a fantastic performance against Namibia in last year’s World Cup, beating nine defenders and contributing with seven points from the boot in a 17-16 victory for his team and he will be looking for a similar performance in this game.
Head-to-head: The two fly-halves. Patrick Fa'apale will get his chance to stake a claim for the number ten jersey in this clash after playing second fiddle to first choice fly-half Tusi Pisi since making his debut in 2014. Fa’apale will want to show the selectors that he is capable of controlling play with some good distribution skills and tactical kicking.
Georgia will need fly-half Lasha Khmaladze to have a good tactical kicking game and put them into the right areas of the field in order to make sure that the dangerous Samoan backs are unable to run from deep.
2013: Georgia won 16-15 at Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi
2003: Samoa won 46-9 at Subiaco Oval in Perth
Prediction: Samoa to win by five points.
Samoa: 15 Albert Nikoro, 14 Faatoina Autagavaia, 13 Reynold Lee Lo, 12 Faialaga Afamasaga, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Patrick Fa'apale, 9 Dwayne Polataivao, 8 Jeff Lepa, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Faatiga Lemalu, 3 James Johnston, 2 Motu Matuu, 1 Sam Aiono
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nuuuli Lene, 18 Jake Grey, 19 Talaga Alofipo, 20 Oneone Faafou, 21 Danny Tusitala, 22 D'Angelo Leuila, 23 Malu Falaniko
Georgia: 15 Merab Kviriashvili, 14 Giorgi Pruidze, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Giorgi Begadze, 8 Lasha Lomidze, 7 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 6 Shalva Sutiashvili (c), 5 Giorgi Nemsadze, 4 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 3 Irakli Mirtskhulava, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Karlen Asieshvili
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Zurab Zhvania, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 Nodar Cheishvili, 20 Saba Shubitidze, 21 Vazha Khutsishvili, 22 Lasha Malaghuradze, 23 Tamaz Mchedlidze
Date: Saturday, June 11
Venue: Apia Park
Kick-off: 15:00 local time (06:00 GMT)
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)