Monday 21 October 2019

Dangerous Samoa seek spirit of '91 and '95 as they set sights on causing major upset against Ireland

Samoa's head coach Steve Jackson (R) practices with his players during the captain's run training session at the Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium in Fukuoka on October 11, 2019, on the eve of the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Ireland and Samoa. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images)
Samoa's head coach Steve Jackson (R) practices with his players during the captain's run training session at the Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium in Fukuoka on October 11, 2019, on the eve of the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Ireland and Samoa. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

Cian Tracey in Fukuoka

The Samoan players are a shy bunch who don't say much, so it's just as well they have a strong voice in their head coach Steve Jackson.

This hasn't been a memorable World Cup for a Samoa team who do not rank amongst the better teams they have put together, but beware the islanders whose backs are against the wall.

With a quarter-final place on the line for Ireland, what this game means to them is obvious, and while that is not the case for Jackson's side, scratch beneath the surface and you will learn that tomorrow's game could have a major bearing on the livelihood of many of the players.

Before yesterday's press conference, Filo Paulo was put in the rather awkward situation when the media manager couldn't recall what club he played for as he introduced him. Paulo sheepishly informed him he didn't have one.

It was a real David Brent moment, but the reality of Samoa's situation was laid bare.

The squad's lack of game time in the build up to the tournament was always going to count against them and that has shown.

The typical individual moments of magic have been there, but they have fallen down on a lot of the basics.

They will go their separate ways on Monday as the players who are lucky enough to have clubs scatter to all corners of the world.

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As for those who don't, tomorrow's game against Ireland gives them one final chance to put themselves in the shop window.

"It'd be right up there with some of the games that they won in '91 '95,” Jackson said, pondering where a win over Ireland would rank in terms of Samoa's greatest results.

“Now, being in the professional era, this is probably one of the biggest games that we could play and win.

"To be ranked where we are and they are in the top-five in the world, for us it would be be massive.

"Again, we don't really compare tier one and tier two. For us there are opportunities.

"We understand the climate that we're living in but what better opportunity to finish the World Cup? Knowing that we're on a plane on Monday, going home, to have a scalp like that would be great."

And that is what makes this Samoa team even more dangerous. They have promised to come out swinging from the hip and match Ireland's desire to score tries.

Whether that leaves holes in their defence remains to be seen, but they have already shown that there is more to them than just physicality.

They fully believe they have been on the wrong side of some refereeing calls. Samoa hit hard. They always do, and Ireland about to feel the full brunt of that.

"People can say what they like,” Jackson insisted.

“We heard journalists saying that the tackle that Rey Lee-Lo did could have killed someone. Well they have obviously got no idea how to play the game.

“We have all seen in this Rugby World Cup, how inconsistent the penalties have been.

“I know Joe (Schmidt) said, not in a press conference, but in one of our coaches' meetings. He asked a question and he was dead right to - How many concussions comes from head height? There wasn't any answer.

“There are more concussions that come from guys getting tackled low and hitting knees. Now you see guys diving at the legs, they are getting yellow carded for no arms.

“We talk about player safety and we understand that. But it's starting to go the other way.

“Referees are too scared to referee the way they should ref and players are too scared to go out there...

“I would hate to see this World Cup come down to the team who can keep the most players on the field.

“I thought we had perfect arguments. There are guys who have got off with way worse with what happened there so I was expecting that they would set a precedent there.”

That sense on injustice has been bubbling under throughout the World Cup and Jackson has stuck by his players. Samoa have one last shot to make their mark in Japan and they are determined to take it.

"We are not there to just make up the numbers," Jackson added.

“We are going to throw everything at it as well and make it as spectacle. They know they have to chase a bonus point and we know that we want to finish this tournament in style.”

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