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Rugby World Cup 2023 Team Preview - Samoa

Rugby World Cup 2023 Team Preview - Samoa - Absolute Rugby

Matthew Buckland |

With the Rugby World Cup fast approaching, it seems like a pretty good time to take a look at the big teams involved in the tournament. Today we’re going to have a look at Samoa and their chances for the tournament.

Samoa heading into the tournament

Similarly to Fiji and Tonga, Samoa have been through a transitional period over the last couple of years. That is partly down to the changes that world rugby have made to the eligibility rules, allowing players to change allegiance after three years away from international rugby.

While the squad has gone through a big change, the coaching staff is also different. 26 capped retired Samoan international Seilala Mapusua took over the coaching role in 2020 and has turned this team around massively from the poor state they were in four years ago.

This Samoan team now features former All Blacks like Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatau and Lima Sopoaga, who have all joined the team since the changes to eligibility rules. It means that this team have had some exceptional results over the last few years.

In 2022 they won the Pacific Nations cup, which included an impressive 31-26 victory over a loaded Australia A side. While they fell short to Fiji in this year’s competition, Samoa’s comeback win over Japan and dismantling of Tonga show that this is an incredibly talented Samoan side that could cause an upset at this tournament.

With a massive warm up game against Ireland, Samoa could come into the tournament with a huge amount of momentum and positivity about this new team. It certainly seems like an exciting time to be a Samoan rugby fan.

Samoa XV for the tournament

There are a lot of interesting selection dilemmas around this team, particularly with all of the new players coming into this Samoan team.

Up front, the props are set with Samoan captain Michael Ala’alatoa will start at tighthead, with the former All Black prop Charlie Faumuina likely starting at loosehead. The team’s hooker is difficult to pick, but Seilala Lam offers the most experience out of the three hookers Samoa have in their Rugby World Cup squad.

Chris Vui’s partner is difficult to pick, but if Theo McFarland is back to 100% healthy then he has to be a starter for this team considering his brilliant form prior to injury. It will be more experience in the backline with some brilliant ball carriers who are going to be destructive at this tournament.

Lima Sopoaga brings a huge amount of talent to this team, but thrusting him into the starting spot at the Rugby World Cup for the first time seems unlikely. It also makes a lot of sense for Mapusua to go with the Moana Pasifika pair at 9 and 10.

Outside of that pair, D’Angelo Leuila seemed likely to start at this tournament, but he has not featured in the side recently so seems unlikely to start in France. On the outside, former New Zealand sevens player Ben Lam could be a surprise starter on the wing, but he is still yet to make his Samoan debut.

Tim Nanai-Williams is one of the surprise omissions from the Samoan squad and so Danny Toala is most likely going to be the starter at 15 for this team.

1.Charlie Faumuina-Toulouse

2.Seilala Lam-Perpignan

3.Michael Ala’alatoa-Leinster

4.Chris Vui-Bristol Bears

5.Theo McFarland-Saracen’s

6.Steven Luatua-Bristol Bears

7.Miracle Fai’ilagi-Moana Pasifika

8.Fritz Lee-Clermont

9.Johnathan Taumateine-Moana Pasifika

10.Christian Leali’ifano-Moana Pasifika

11.Ed Fidow-Rugby New York

12.Duncan Paia’aua-Toulon

13.UJ Seuteni-La Rochelle

14.Nigel Ah Wong-Blues

15.Danny Toala-Moana Pasifika

Players to watch out for

Up front, Theo McFarland can be a real difference maker if he is healthy. Before a serious knee injury, McFarland looked like the best player in Premiership Rugby. His impact shines in not only the set piece, but he is a brilliant open field player who can out physical almost anyone on a rugby pitch.

It will be a similarly interesting tournament for Charlie Faumuina. A Rugby World Cup winner with the All Blacks in 2015, it will be interesting to see whether Faumuina can still disrupt the scrums as well at 36 years old.

In the backs, Ed Fidow might not be a name that a lot of rugby fans are familiar with. But Fidow has been one of the best player’s in Major League Rugby over the last few years. Considering the powerful centre partnership that Samoa have, there could be a lot of opportunities for Fidow to shine on the outside.

What are Samoa’s chances at this tournament?

Samoa are certainly one of the teams who have benefited from the Rugby World Cup draw taking place three and a half years ago. They have been placed in Pool D alongside England, Argentina, Japan and Chile. This is Chile’s first Rugby World Cup so Samoa should be able to cruise past them.

Only a few weeks ago we saw Samoa defeat Japan without a lot of their top players. So Samoa will feel very confident about beating Japan once again. Then all they need to make it through to their first quarter-final in 24 years is to beat either Argentina or England.

Both of those teams are very inconsistent at the moment and so Samoa know they are not miles off beating either of those sides. Samoa have beaten Argentina in the past, although that was 18 years ago in Buenos Aires. They have not beaten England in eight attempts.

It is quite a difficult challenge for this Samoan side. They have some incredible talent in this squad which could definitely cause an upset in this tournament. The issue is, Samoa have not put it together consistently enough to make you think that they could beat one of those top two teams.

Still, it would not be a massive surprise if we saw Samoa reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time in the 21st century. I think it will just be slightly too much this time around for Samoa.

Prediction of Samoa’s Rugby World Cup Performance: Pool Stage exit

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