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‘We’ve arrived’: Samoa taking inspiration from ‘Pacific brothers’ Fiji

By Finn Morton
Haka of of Samao during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Samoa and Chile at Stade de Bordeaux on September 16, 2023 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Hans van der Valk/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Samoa will turn to one of their “Pacific brothers” for both “inspiration and confidence” when they take on a desperate Los Pumas outfit in a decisive Rugby World Cup Test on Friday.

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The Flying Fijians made a statement last weekend as they handed Eddie Jones’ Wallabies a disastrous 22-15 defeat. Fiji has a very real chance of progressing past the pool stage after beating Australia for the first time since 1954.

For the thousands who watched on at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, the memories of that historic World Cup victory will live on forever. It’s a famous day that will echo throughout rugby history.

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But that result was almost a week ago now, and the Rugby World Cup is moving quickly. More history awaits the teams who are good enough to make the most of their opportunities.

Samoa has a chance to follow in the footsteps of their “Pacific brothers” when they run out onto the field in Saint-Etienne – yes, the very same venue as Fiji’s now famous triumph over Australia.

Head coach Seilala Mapusua said “there are no second chances” for Samoa as they look ahead to their crucial clash with Argentina.

“The boys have realised we are in the tournament, we’ve arrived at the party. There are no second chances so this week the whole squad, there has been a real lift and energy. We know we have got a huge game coming up,” Mapusua told reporters.

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“We had confidence before the game, confidence that Fiji were going to get over and also confidence in what we are doing. That’s awesome to see our Pacific brothers doing really well and we are always going to be behind them until we have to play each other.

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“We are proud of them and of course we are going to take inspiration and confidence from that. But I’d be more inclined to take confidence from the work and preparation this group of men have done over the past few months.”

Samoa have made three changes to their side that bested Chile a week ago, with Paul Alo-Emile and Brian Alainu’u’ese coming into the forward pack. Former Hurricane Ben Lam will also make his first appearance at the 2023 Rugby World Cup after being named on the left wing.

Ex-Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano will run out alongside former All Blacks Steven Luatua and Charlie Faumuina, although the absence of playmaker Lima Sopoaga is a potential concern.

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“Brian (Alainu’u’ese) has been training really well and this was a game we thought his strengths would be utilised, especially around the set-piece,” Mapusua added.

“Ben Lam has just become available after sustaining an injury a few weeks ago. He is now fit and ready to go. We were worried when he sustained his injury. He’s a lot on the edge for us, he’s a very big man who can move quickly… he brings a lot to the wider channels, his pure power and the way he plays the game. We are looking forward to finally getting him on the field this weekend.

“With Lima Sopoaga’s omission, I think it’s been circulated, he sustained a (calf) injury last week against Chile. He was ruled out this week, we ruled him out as a precautionary. Also, because of the nature of his injury he wasn’t ready to play this week. We will reassess at the weekend towards next week’s game.”

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Jon 4 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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