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‘The cruel nature of sport’: Samoa coach’s ‘heart breaks’ after England loss

By Finn Morton
The players of Samoa prepare for kick-off ahead of the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and Samoa at Stade Pierre Mauroy on October 07, 2023 in Lille, France. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Samoa’s Rugby World Cup campaign came to a “disappointing” end on Saturday night. They were minutes away from their first-ever win over England but fell painfully short of history.


Steve Borthwick’s men didn’t play well – they were far from their best – but they did enough to win 18-17 at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in the final round of pool play.

Led by playmaker Lima Sopoaga, Samoa were simply better for long stretches of the contest. The Pacific Islanders held a slender six-point lead going into the final 10 minutes but couldn’t keep out the relentless waves of England’s attack.

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Replacement Danny Care scored a decisive try with eight minutes to play and an Owen Farrell conversion handed England the lead for the first time in about 50 minutes.

The Samoan players looked hurt, frustrated and momentarily broken as the full-time whistle sounded, and the sombre feeling was shared by head coach Seilala Mapusua post-game.

“That was a tough one. If I’m being honest, my heart breaks for these boys,” Mapusua said after the one-point loss. “I thought they deserved a lot more.

“We did enough to earn victory. Such is the cruel nature of sport, it wasn’t to be.”

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Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, who was awarded Player of the Match honours, couldn’t hide from the pain of defeat as he was presented with his trophy. Prop Michael Alaalatoa looked shattered as well with the camera panning to the Australian-born front-rower just after the full-time whistle.

Samoa started their World Cup campaign with a dominant 43-10 win over Chile but failed to back that up with another positive result on the scoreboard.

Losses to Argentina, Japan and now England saw Sopoaga suggest that the players “didn’t give the jersey the justice it deserved.” But Samoa should hold their heads up high.

“Pride is an understatement,” Mapusua continued. “I thought we were most dominant in most facets.


“We were able to expose some space in open field, especially in the wider channels, and we were able to stop England for 70 minutes.”


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mitch 1 hours ago
The Wallabies team Joe Schmidt must pick to win back Bledisloe Cup

Rodda will be a walk up starter at lock. Frost if you analyse his dominance has little impact and he’s a long way from being physical enough, especially when you compare to Rodda and the work he does. He was quite poor at the World Cup in his lack of physicality. Between Rodda and Skelton we would have locks who can dominate the breakdown and in contact. Frost is maybe next but Schmidt might go for a more physical lock who does their core work better like Ryan or LSL. Swain is no chance unless there’s a load of injuries. Pollard hasn’t got the scrum ability yet to be considered. Nasser dominated him when they went toe to toe and really showed him up. Picking Skelton effects who can play 6 and 8. Ideally Valetini would play 6 as that’s his best position and Wilson at 8 but that’s not ideal for lineout success. Cale isn’t physical enough yet in contact and defence but is the best backrow lineout jumper followed by Wright, Hanigan and Swinton so unfortunately Valetini probably will start at 8 with Wright or Hanigan at 6. Wilson on the bench, he’s got too much quality not to be in the squad. Paisami is leading the way at 12 but Hamish Stewart is playing extremely well also and his ball carrying has improved significantly. Beale is also another option based on the weekend. Beale is class but he’s also the best communicator of any Australian backline player and that can’t be underestimated, he’ll be in the mix.

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