Rugby World Cup
Samoa looking to smash their way out of Pool B
Dan Leo, former Samoa captain
August 11, 2015
© Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Samoa have made no secret of the way they intend to play in next month's Rugby World Cup when they announced their squad last night in Apia.

With the inclusion of Tuilagi brothers Vavae and Alesana, Logovii Mulipola, Iosefa Tekori, Maurie Fa'asavalu and Ofisa Treviranus among a string of others, the message is clear: Samoa will be looking to smash their way out of Pool B. Scotland, South Africa, Japan and the USA have the daunting task ahead of trying to stop them.

This game plan isn't anything new for Samoa. The challenge for them lies in winning quality ball at the set piece and gaining field territory and possession allowing them to unleash their over-powered strike runners. With seasoned campaigners Kane Thompson running the lineout and Sakaria Taulafo the scrum, Samoa should be able to at least gain parity there. Frontline half-back pairing Tusiata Pisi and Kahn Fotuali'i will be expected to achieve the rest.

While there is no shortage of power in this squad, Samoa's short-falling may be their lack of depth in experienced game controllers. With David Lemi ruled out due to injury, the only back up nine in the squad is local based amateur and former Samoa Sevens player Vavao Afemai.

He won't have experienced anything like the pressure of playing in front of sold out stadiums in a World Cup. The same goes for second-string fly halves Mike Stanley and Patrick Faapale, another Samoan based amateur who has also played on the World Sevens Series.

© Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

There is no disputing that the physicality and skill level of Samoan club rugby is second to none. However, the finer arts of the professional game such as tactical kicking and the strategy behind those facets often neglected in the Islands, in favour of a more exciting running game. While making a credible showing in the recent Pacific Nations Cup, the World Cup will be a huge step up for Afemai.

With amateurs in the squad, experience will be key. Instrumental to Samoa's success will be keeping Fotuali'i and Tusi Pisi fit and firing. In 2011 we got things majorly wrong by playing those two against Namibia in our first pool game. We won the game comfortably but lost Pisi to injury in the process. Four days later we fell to Wales 17-10 in a game that determined progression out of the group stages. If Samoa have learned the lessons from 2011, then qualifying for the quarter-finals from Pool B is not beyond this squad.

Despite the quality there are some noticeable absentees. In my opinion Paul Williams of Stade Francais is the biggest of them. Suffering from an Achilles injury William's solidity, composure and nous will be missed in Samoa's backline. Not having his leadership and communication skills will also be felt.

It could also have wider ramifications for the team. A captain fostering working relationships with referees has become a big part of the game nowadays. There is no coincidence that the teams who do this well get the rub of the green when it comes to fifty-fifty calls; names like Richie McCaw, John Eales, Jean de Villiers and Lawrence Dallaglio spring to mind. While players of that calibre are few and far between, I believe Samoa's squad lacks men with that type of influence. It could cost them in a tournament like the World Cup.

Newcastle supporters will be disappointed for Sinoti Sinoti who misses out after a crackerjack season. Unfortunately for him his Pacific Nations Cup form was low-key in comparison to that with which lit up the Aviva Premiership.

Newcastle host Scotland against Samoa in what could be the crunch match of the pool so at least the locals will get to see a reinvigorated Falcon Alesana Tuilagi in action. Elsewhere, Census Johnston raised Samoan hopes of an unlikely third World Cup showing after he seemingly ignored his new contract terms with Toulouse in turning out for Samoa against the All Blacks. Johnston hasn't been named in this squad but don't be surprised if the larger than life tighthead suddenly appears. If that happens, he would only add to what is shaping up as one of the biggest and most powerful squads ever assembled.

Samoa squad:

Props: Viliamu Afatia, Jake Grey, Logovii Mulipola, Anthony Perenise, Sakaria Taulafo

Hookers: Wayne Ole Avei, Manu Leiataua, Motu Matu'u

Locks: Faatiga Lemalu, Filo Paulo, Kane Thompson, Joe Tekori

Loose Forwards: Maurie Faasavalu, Alafoti Faosiliva, TJ Ioane, Jack Lam, Vavae Tuilagi, Ofisa Treviranus (Captain)

Halfbacks: Vavao Afemai, Kahn Fotualii

First five-eighths: Patrick Faapale, Tusiata Pisi, Mike Stanley

Midfielders: Rey Lee Lo, Johnny Leota, George Pisi, Paul Perez

Outside backs: Faatoina Autagavaia, Ken Pisi, Tim Nanai Williams, Alesana Tuilagi (Vice Captain)

© Dan Leo, former Samoa captain

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