Manu Samoa kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign against tournament debutants Chile on Saturday in Bordeaux.
It’s a special occasion for the sides as both have players who will be representing their country for the first time at the tournament, while it is also the very first Test match between the two nations.
Samoa enter the World Cup in good form after finishing second in the Pacific Nations Cup, beating Japan and Tonga in between a loss to Fiji.
They rounded off their preparations with a win over the Barbarians before putting in a stellar performance against Ireland, where they narrowly lost 17-13 in Bayonne.
Meanwhile, Chile featured in their very first World Cup match on Sunday and produced a brave performance against Japan, scoring two tries in a 42-12 defeat.
The passionate Chileans were the first to score in that match, and while they ultimately fell short, their stats show just how effective they were.
They won more breakdown turnovers (6) than any other side during the opening weekend while also making the third most dominant tackles (13), and they were one of 10 teams with a perfect scrum record.
This will also be the first time that Samoa faces South American opposition in the Rugby World Cup and fifth time overall.
What they said
Chile lock Santiago Pedrero is expecting a big battle up front with Samoa after his experience against Tonga last year.
“We know that against Samoa, the fight of the forwards’ pack is going to be a little more relevant than that of the last game,” he said ahead of the clash.
“Last November, we played against Tonga, who have a similar style.
“We know that the one-on-one duel is going to be a battle, so we are very focused on that. We also know that they are going to play the offload, so we are going to be very focused on the point of contact and on the set-pieces.”
He added that the squad will be better prepared for their second match after an emotional debut against Japan.
“We are a bit more prepared for the next match in terms of emotions and feelings,” he said.
“We might get better in terms of our mental preparation with all that is happening off the field and what we have to do in the game.”
Samoa scrum coach Mahonri Schwalger said his side were eager to get stuck into the tournament after missing the opening weekend.
“I think Chile are a good team,” he said. “They showed last week what they can do. They have some firepower in the forwards in the backs as well. We’re looking forward to it.”
Players to watch
Christian Leali’ifano makes his first World Cup appearance for Samoa after representing Australia at the 2019 tournament in Japan. The playmaker will become only the second Samoan to play a World Cup match aged 36 or older after Peter Fatialofa and Tuis Pisi. Leali’ifano was in excellent form for Moana Pasifika during the Super Rugby Pacific season and emulated that form with Samoa after making his debut against Japan earlier this year. He has a wonderfully rounded game and is superbly accurate from the tee. The fly-half is a focal point to Samoa’s attack, and expect him to create all kinds of havoc for the Chilean defence.
The comeback of a lifetime ✨
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 14, 2023
There are many players in world rugby quite as multi-skilled as Samoa’s box-office forward Theo McFarland. The Saracens back-five forward can do it all, from brutal carries to delicate side-steps to hard-hitting defence and lineout excellence. He is simply world-class and a player who can really light up the tournament in so many different ways.
Samoa have a fantastic blend of pace and power throughout their squad, and none really pair the two quite as effectively as La Rochelle centre UJ Seuteni. The 29-year-old featured at fly-half for Samoa in Japan four years ago but now gets a shot in his more favoured outside centre role in France. The Samoan was a vital cog in the La Rochelle side that lifted the Champions Cup title last season and can unlock defences in multiple ways, whether he is running a sharp line to slice through or going through a defender. He is also an excellent distributor and has a wide passing range, making him nearly impossible to defend.
Diego Escobar may be featuring off the bench for Chile in this match, but judging on his performance against Japan, expect him to make a huge impact when called upon. The dynamite hooker produced a brilliant all-action shift against the Brave Blossoms. With ball in hand, he gained 30 metres from his nine carries, evading four defenders, while defensively, he made eight tackles and won two turnovers.
Another standout against Japan, Clemente Saavedra, shifts from lock to the back-row against Samoa, setting up a mouth-watering head-to-head with Samoa’s Fritz Lee. Saavedra was another player who starred with ball in hand against Japan, regularly attracting multiple defenders when he was in possession.
Finally, scrum-half Marcelo Torrealba was the heartbeat of Chile’s efforts in their World Cup debut and expect nothing less from the livewire number nine. He zips around the pitch at break-neck speeds and produces swift and accurate service to his teammates. He also has the ability to split a defence with his quick acceleration around the fringes of the breakdown.
¡Era bueno el intento de Marcelo Torrealba para llegar al segundo try de @chilerugby en el partido! 🇨🇱
— ScrumRugby (@ScrumESPN) September 10, 2023
Chile will be looking to emulate Argentina and Uruguay, who won their second World Cup matches in 1987 and 1999. However, Los Cóndores face arguably a sterner task with Samoa than their fellow South Americans, who beat Italy and Spain, respectively. Seilala Mapusua has got Samoa playing an attractive and brutal style of rugby that looks to be just too much for Chile to handle. We predict that Chile will put up another brave fight, but ultimately, Samoa will win by 20 points.
This is the first-ever Test match between the two countries.
Samoa: 15 Duncan Paia’aua, 14 Danny Toala, 13 UJ Seuteni, 12 Tumua Manu, 11 Nigel Ah-Wong, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Jonathan Taumateine, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Fritz Lee, 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Theo McFarland, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Michael Alaalatoa (c), 2 Seilala Lam, 1 James Lay
Replacements: 16 Sama Malolo, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Sam Slade, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Ereatara Enari, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Ed Fidow
Chile: 15 Inaki Ayarza, 14 Santiago Videla, 13 Domingo Saavedra, 12 Matias Garafulic, 11 José Ignacio Larenas, 10 Rodrigo Fernandez, 9 Marcelo Torrealba, 8 Raimundo Martínez, 7 Clemente Saavedra, 6 Martín Sigren (c), 5 Santiago Pedrero, 4 Pablo Huete, 3 Matias Dittus, 2 Tomas Dussaillant, 1 Javier Carrasco
Replacements: 16 Diego Escobar, 17 Salvador Lues, 18 Esteban Inostroza, 19 Javier Eissmann, 20 Alfonso Escobar, 21 Ignacio Silva, 22 Benjamin Videla, 23 Pablo Casas
Date: Saturday, September 16
Venue: Stade de Bordeaux
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 BST, 12:00 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (NZR)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner, James Doleman (NZR)
TMO: Brett Cronan (RA)