With the November Tests now done and dusted for most teams, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next, Samoa.
The Samoans will be disappointed that they failed to improve on their World Ranking this year, starting and finishing the season in 15th place.
A nation with their history and talent should be higher up the rankings and the fact that the likes of Japan, Georgia and even Tonga are ranked above them.
They lost out on the Pacific Nations Cup title after going down to Fiji 26-16 in Suva. They lost their grip on the match as it wore on and squandered a 16-3 lead to cruch their hopes of a title.
The disappointment didn’t deter them further as they recorded an impressive 30-10 win over Tonga. The Pacific Nations Cup was preceded by a 19-19 draw with Georgia after trailing 9-3 at half time.
Samoa’s November tour started badly with a heavy 52-8 defeat to France in Toulouse. Their rematch with Georgia in Tbilisi didn’t end well either as a penalty try helped Georgia beat them 20-16 after leading 17-10 at the break.
However, the Samoans managed to finish their season on a winning note thanks to a hard fought win over Canada in Grenoble.
Both teams were punished with yellow cards and even though the Canadians outscored Samoa with three tries to one, D’Angelo Leuila’s boot kept his side in the game and his five penalties and a drop goal. Together with a try from Paul Perez it proved enough to secure a narrow 25-23 victory for Samoa.
Leuila’s emergence is undoubtedly the major positive of the month for new head coach Alama Ieremia, who took over after last year’s Rugby World Cup, and the 19-year-old fly-half looks like the heir apparent to Tusi Pisi.
Elia Elia, who recently signed a short-term with Premiership club Harlequins, is another fine prospect, but more fresh faces need to emerge at next year’s U20 World Championship, having won the U20 Trophy this year.
Ieremia hopes to see those younger players push through as others have over the last few weeks, as he continues to implement new systems ahead of key matches building towards qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“To see U20’s and Samoa A players have an impact in that last game proves that some of our development pathways are working,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“The tour was also about trying some new systems that was geared towards our profile. Some areas were good, and other areas need to be better.
“It required some players pushing themselves to new levels – some could but others couldn’t. And that’s what test level is all about.
“Next year’s June campaign will demand we select the best available players from a talent pool that has been developed this year.”