Samoa were one of the sides to sit out the opening round and they will be looking to make a statement when they face Chile in Rugby World Cup Pool D on Saturday.
Changes to the eligibility rules mean the Samoans can call on several players previously lost to New Zealand and Australia and they now have real quality throughout their side.
Opponents Chile lost their first-ever World Cup game 42-12 to Japan on Sunday, impressing for an hour, only to fall off.
Their fitness proved an issue in the final quarter and they could find themselves in real danger against the incredibly physical Samoans, who will look to beat them up a bit more than the Brave Blossoms when the pair clash at the Stade de Bordeaux
Australia’s top points scorer from the last World Cup, Christian Leali’ifano, is set to start at 10 for Samoa, while former All Blacks Steven Steven Luatua and Lima Sopoaga are also in the matchday 23.
Seven of the squad play their club rugby in France and replacement three-quarter Ed Fidow, who crossed twice against Russia in 2019, is the only Samoan tryscorer remaining from four years ago.
Chile coach Pablo Lemoine has made four changes to his XV, with hooker Tomas Dussaillant, wing Jose Ignacio Larenas and second rows Santiago Pedrero and Pablo Huete coming into the Condors’ side.
Samoa -33.5 @ 10/11
There is big, and then there is Pacific Islander big. Fiji, Tonga and Samoa always seem to produce players of gargantuan size, who can also run hard and display extraordinary ball-handling skills.
They currently have a nice combination of players featuring week-in-week-out in Super Rugby, Japan, Europe and even North America, with the advent of the Moana Pasifika franchise giving their youngsers a clear pathway to the big time.
Argentina’s woes against England has hinted at fragility and Samoa will fancy themselves to outmuscle Japan. There is a real case to suggest that they could actually go through, especially with the extra nous of Leali’ifano at 10 and the potential to fit Sopoaga into the side.
After watching the opening round of games, they will have spent the last few days prowling around their training base in Montpellier, raring to go.
While they were second to Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup, they still beat Pool D rivals Japan and also Tonga.
Sailala Mapusua’s side then pushed Ireland close in a warm-up match, a game in which Sopoaga made his debut, and there is a worry that they could be about to put a Chile side who missed 20 tackles against Japan to the sword.
Jonathan Taumateine Anytime Tryscorer @ 7/4
Like Fijian Drua, Moana Pasifika’s Super Rugby participation has allowed both Tongan and Samoan players a gateway to the top flight and Jonathan Taumateine is one of those to have thrived.
The scrum-half was born in Auckland and bounced around with the Chiefs and Hurricanes. However, at 25, he now commands more regular rugby with his current team, often alongside Leali’ifano.
Taumateine’s record of three tries in 13 Test matches is a smart return and he will be sniping around the fringes, especially as the game goes on and the Chileans begin to tire.
A Samoan player will break out in a big way at this tournament and Taumateine might well announce himself in Bordeaux.