Rugby World Cup
Preview: Scotland vs. Samoa -- Bruising showdown between Scots and quarters
Nick Atkin
October 9, 2015
Scotland in must-win game
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Scotland know they are just one win away from securing their first Rugby World Cup quarterfinal since 2007. But standing in their way are Samoa, who will be determined to go out on a high in their final Pool B match, having succumbed to a 26-5 defeat to Japan in their last outing which ended their last-eight hopes. It's not just pride that the Pacific Islanders are playing for - they know they can gain automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup if they beat Scotland and earn a bonus point, and if the USA beat Japan without conceding a bonus point. Scotland also know that defeat or a draw could see Japan leapfrog them into second, to set up a meeting with either Australia or Wales. It's all on the line at St James' Park.

Team news

Scotland have seen their injury problems ease in what will be a welcome boost for coach Vern Cotter, who makes seven changes with fly-half Finn Russell, full-back Stuart Hogg and flanker John Hardie returning to the starting XV. Russell missed the 34-16 defeat to South Africa with a sprained ankle while Hogg came off injured against the Springboks. Hardie has passed the return-to-play protocols having missed Scotland's last two Pool B games after a head knock. Hooker Ross Ford and centre Matt Scott have also shaken off doubts over concussions to start.

Samoa are without captain Ofisa Treviranus, who has an ankle injury, while winger Alesana Tuilagi, below, is suspended having picked up a controversial five-week ban for allegedly striking Harumichi Tatekawa with his knee. Forward Faifili Levave will be available on Saturday, however, having avoided further punishment after being cited for an act of foul play.

Scotland:

Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain), Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson, John Hardie, David Denton.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Josh Strauss, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne, Sean Lamont.

Samoa:

Tim Nanai-Williams, Paul Perez, George Pisi, Rey Lee-Lo, Fa'atoina Autagavaia, Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali'i (captain); Sakaria Taulafo, Ma'atulimanu Leiataua, Census Johnston, Teofilo Paulo, Kane Thompson, Maurie Faasavalu, Jack Lam, Alafoti Faosiliva.

Replacements: Motu Matu'u, Viliamu Afatia, Anthony Perenise, Faifili Levave, Vavae Tuilagi, Vavao Afemai, Patrick Faapale, Ken Pisi.

Samoa's Alesana Tuilagi is tackled
Samoa's Alesana Tuilagi is tackled© Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Key head-to-head

Samoa's discipline has been awful at this tournament -- Scotland have conceded just nine penalties in each of their three games so far, while Samoa gave up 19 against Japan and 39 overall in the pool. Three of those 19 came from loosehead prop, Sakaria Taulafo, who conceded the same amount against South Africa. WP Nel will be looking to exploit that weakness, and has enough scrummaging power to keep his opponent's tally ticking over.

Key stats

* Richie Gray will win his 50th cap for Scotland in the second row alongside his brother Jonny.

* Sean Lamont will become the third Scotland international to pick up 100 caps, joining Chris Paterson and women's legend Donna Kennedy, if he comes off the bench.

* Samoa's last meeting against Scotland -- a 27-17 victory in a quadrangular series match in 2013 - was their first ever win against them. Scotland have not lost to a non-Tier One side since.

Odds

Samoa may only be playing for pride but they are more than capable of producing a shock -- and you can get them at 4/1 with Unibet. A fast start for Scotland could prove crucial though to rid themselves of any nerves, and Tommy Seymour is 13/2 to score the first try.

Weather

Newcastle is set for a sunny spells and variable cloud in temperatures of up to 13 degrees Celsius on what will mainly be a dry day, though showers may feature at St James' Park.

Prediction

There are expected to be 100,000 Scots in Newcastle for this match, due to the proximity to the Scottish border, and the support will no doubt galvanise Cotter's men. They surely won't pass up this chance, given what happened four years ago with the sucker-punch suffered against Argentina. They know this is their biggest game since 2011. Scotland should have enough but it will likely be by a narrow margin -- they have scored just six tries in their last four matches against Samoa, and have failed to score 20 points in any of them.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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