Preview: Samoa v Scotland

Date published: October 9 2015

It's win or most likely bust for Scotland in terms of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the World Cup when they take on Samoa in Newcastle.

Saturday's match sees Vern Cotter name his strongest available side, with several of those who missed the Springbok clash returning to the XV.

That decision by the head coach could prove to have been an intelligent one as fresh legs against a Samoan side who were disappointing against the USA should see them to victory. On paper however, this Samoan line-up cannot be written off as they possess plenty of talent. Will it show?

Stephen Betham's men were so lethargic against Japan in their last outing, almost seeming off the pace both defensively and in attack. And it unfortunately for them ended their hopes of qualification for the knockouts so on Saturday at St James' Park they can only be the party pooper.

It's a physical backline they have named this week – even with the absence of the suspended Alesana Tuilagi – as Paul Perez moves to the right wing in place of Ken Pisi while Fa'atoina Autagavaia is at eleven. Rey Lee-Lo and George Pisi form a solid looking new-look centre partnership.

Scotland must also be wary of a refreshed Jack Lam while Maurie Fa'asavalu and Alafoti Faosiliva will keep the likes of John Hardie, Ryan Wilson and David Denton busy. However, big pressure may come on the shoulders of hooker Ma'atulimanu Leiataua, who only has eight caps for his country.

For Scotland it will be a case of getting over the winning line by whatever way they can as missing out to Japan was not on the agenda for the Scottish Rugby Union and Cotter. We feel they will have enough quality and structure to avoid such an embarrassment and the return from injury of fly-half Finn Russell will certainly help them in that regard. When he is alongside captain Greig Laidlaw, Scotland looks that more assured.

"We need to be careful not to fall into any traps. We've worked incredibly hard," stressed the scrum-half ahead of the pivotal Pool B showdown.

"Samoa are a dangerous team. If we defend properly there could be opportunities for us. If we get our part right, we should have a good game."

If Scotland do win they must wait for three hours to find out if it will be Australia or Wales as their quarter-final opponent next Sunday at Twickenham. Of course that is not on their mind leading up to Saturday's clash as they look to head south, not north, after the final whistle.

Ones to watch:

For Samoa: We focus in on their two dynamic and destructive flankers Maurie Fa'asavalu and Jack Lam, who are set to cause Scotland plenty of issues on Saturday. Fa'asavalu first made a name for himself at the 2003 Rugby World Cup before switching to rugby league's St Helens for an impressive stint. Seven years later he returned to union and is one of several solid back-row options for Samoa at this World Cup. Lam is another as his pace and low centre of gravity around the field make him a tough man to bring to ground. Scotland have been warned.

For Scotland: It's a timely return to the side for fly-half Finn Russell. Fears of his tournament being over when he twisted his ankle against USA in Leeds have now ended as he returns to the side for this pivotal clash. What is good about Greig Laidlaw doing the kicking is that Russell can concentrate solely on his playmaking, which has been impressive over the past year for both Glasgow Warriors and Scotland.

Head-to-head: Two electric runners meet in the full-back position at St James' Park and fans will be in for a treat. Stuart Hogg meets Tim Nanai-Williams in an exciting duel, with Hogg's pace off the mark and Nanai-Williams' fast feet set to be a delight to watch.

Recent results:

2013: Samoa won 27-17 in Durban
2012: Scotland won 17-16 in Apia
2010: Scotland won 19-16 in Aberdeen
2005: Scotland won 18-11 at Murrayfield
2004: Scotland won 38-3 in Wellington

Prediction: Judging by Samoa's performance last week we will go for Scotland by 15 points!

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Lamont.

Samoa: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Paul Perez, 13 George Pisi, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Fa'atoina Autagavaia, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i (c), 8 Alafoti Faosiliva, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Maurie Faasavalu, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ma'atulimanu Leiataua, 1 Sakari Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Vavae Tuilagi, 21 Vavao Afemai, 22 Patrick Faapale, 23 Ken Pisi.

Date: Saturday, October 10
Venue: St James' Park, Newcastle
Kick-off: 14:30 local (13:30 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle (England), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)