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Preview: Samoa v Scotland

22nd June 2012 08:29

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Andy Robinson Greig Laidlaw after Scotland beat Australia

Nearly there: Scotland

Scotland will look to avoid slipping on a potential banana skin and instead secure a southern hemisphere clean sweep when they tackle Samoa in Apia on Saturday.

Belying their status as Six Nations wooden spooners, Scotland opened their tour by upsetting Australia 9-6 in the wet - their first win on Australian soil since 1982 - and then went on to beat Fiji 37-25 in sweltering conditions.

Victory over Samoa, who sit one spot above Scotland at number nine in the world rankings, would give Scotland a perfect three-from-three record this June.

"That's something we are striving for," coach Andy Robinson said.

"It's our next Test match. We have to focus on winning each Test and we go into Saturday with confidence that we can take on a strong Samoan side."

Scotland have defeated Samoa in six of their seven previous meetings, with the closest result a 15-15 draw at Murrayfield in 1995. But Samoa gave them a scare in their last meeting at Aberdeen's Pittodrie Stadium in 2010, when the Scots needed a last-minute penalty to win 19-16 in snow and freezing temperatures.

That match demonstrated Samoa's ability to mix power with flair and Saturday's hit-out will be no different.

The Samoans will pose a significant challenge, as they have a host of Europe-based star names in their side and boast a huge front five which is clearly designed to win the set-piece battle to allow them to play an organised and controlled style of game.

The islanders, currently in a rebuilding phase as new coach Stephen Betham looks to bring through new talent with an eye on the 2015 Rugby World Cup, enter this Test oozing confidence. Samoa recently went through the Pacific Nations Cup undefeated after clinching the title with a win over Japan last week.

Scotland have also never faced Samoa on the islanders' home turf, where the hosts will be keen to make the most of a rare chance to impress their fans in front of Northern Hemisphere opposition.

Ones to watch:

For Samoa: Fly-half Tusi Pisi, who skipped the Pacific Nations Cup, returns to the team after flying in from New Zealand to join his countrymen. Samoa's main playmaker was superb for the islanders at the RWC last year, and his experience and tactical leadership boosts an ever-dangerous looking backline.

For Scotland: Recalled duo Chris Cusiter and Sean Lamont spoke of their surprise at getting the nod for this game, but must now justify their coach's faith in them with a strong performance at scrum-half and wing respectively. Cusiter has made a decent impact off the bench for Scotland thus far on tour but now needs to go the distance against Samoa, while Lamont's heavy frame will put him in good stead against the opposition's bigger backs.

Head to head: This is going to be a physical affair, and it's all going to start up front where Scotland's heavies are set to face arguably their toughest challenge on tour. Samoa's front row boasts solid scrummagers in the form of tighthead Census Johnston (Toulouse), hooker Ti'i Paulo (Clermont) and Wasps loosehead Sakaria Taulafo. Scotland's seasoned veterans Euan Murray and Ross Ford have to be right up there to compete against them, whilst new kid on the block Ryan Grant faces a litmus test.

Prediction: Scotland scraped past the Aussies, were made to work by Fiji and now face an in-form Samoa outfit packed with big hitters and powerful runners. They're also the most organised of the Pacific Islanders, play with more control and never shy away from the physical aspect of the game. Tough call, but we think Scotland's unbeaten run on tour could come to a crashing halt. Samoa by five!

The teams:

Samoa: 15 Fa'atoina Autagavai, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Fautua Otto, 12 Paul Williams, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 6 Ben Masoe, 5 Daniel Crichton, 4 Fa'atiga Lemalu, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Wayne Ole Avei, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Afa Aioni, 20 Jeremy Sua, 21 Ki Anufe, 22 Lolo Lui.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Robert Harley, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Max Evans.

Date: Saturday, June 23
Venue: Apia Park, Apia
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith, Andrew Lees (both Australia)

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1South Africa418
2Wales415
3Samoa410
4Fiji45
5Namibia40