Friday 20 April 2018

Sevens specialists Samoa will be no pushover for Kidney's hopefuls

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SAMOA roll into Dublin this weekend on the crest of a wave ahead of next year's World Cup.

The Islanders' visits to Ireland have been rare and Saturday will be just the fifth meeting between the sides. They come with the usual reputation of a team that loves to tackle, but there is more to this Samoan side than the odd huge -- and often late -- hit.

Eighteen members of their squad ply their trade in either England or France, while eight of them were part of the all-conquering side who beat New Zealand to the Sevens World Series title earlier this year.

They beat Japan, in Tokyo, two weeks ago and are in the midst of a gruelling November schedule that will take them to the Aviva Stadium, Twickenham and Murrayfield over the next three weeks.

Only two of Ireland's team on Saturday will have had the unique experience of running into a Samoan tackle before, with just Ronan O'Gara and Donncha O'Callaghan having played in the 2003 Test in Apia, which Ireland won 40-14.

Gordon D'Arcy and David Wallace came off the bench that day and may do so again if they are named among the replacements.

After a run of six defeats in a row, Ireland could do without a repeat of the Samoans' 1996 visit to the old Lansdowne Road -- when they destroyed the hosts by running in five tries in a 40-25 win that stunned the likes of David Humphreys, Victor Costello and Paul Wallace in the Irish team.

The current squad contains plenty of firepower -- especially behind the scrum -- where Sevens specialists mix it up with some of the English Premiership's biggest ball-carriers.

They haven't played much together and may take time to gel, while the Irish climate won't help their cause. But with so many playing in New Zealand, England and France they should be used to the conditions and have the potential to cause problems.


Mikaela Pesamino

Winger, Sale

Last year's Sevens player of the year lives up to his nickname 'Lightning', with pace to burn and an eye for the line. Seven tries in five Test appearances mean the man who is awaiting visa clearance before joining Sale, has shown more than a little promise in the 15-man game.

Seilala Mapusua

Centre, London Irish

A scary looking man, this huge centre is one of the English Premiership's best and will test Paddy Wallace's defensive qualities all day when he gets his hands on the ball on Saturday. A ferocious hitter, the Irish won't get much change from the inside-centre channel.

Lolo Lui

Out-half/full-back, Samoa Sevens

Another from the famous Samoan Sevens school, Lui captained the Islanders to the World Series title this year. From the same village as the family of former All Black Michael Jones, the versatile back lined out at out-half against Connacht during the week, but can also hurt teams from full-back.

Tii Paulo

Hooker, Clermont

Samoa's array of brilliant backs will need good ball and the onus is on Clermont's impressive hooker Paulo to deliver it. A former Crusader, the ball-carrying menace will need his set-piece to be right on the day.

Cencus Johnston

Prop, Tolouse

Ireland's scrum will undergo its weekly examination and the giant Toulouse prop will be the man who puts the pressure on. Six feet three inches and around 20 stone of Auckland-born mass awaits Tom Court.

Irish Independent

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