This game is huge, particularly for Wales. After running South Africa so close last week with a daring performance, a loss here would probably see them out of the World Cup at the same stage as Namibia.
Samoa are a completely different prospect than South Africa and Wales’ record against the Pacific Island teams in World Cups is not good. Defeat against Samoa in 1991 and 1999 was compounded by Fiji’s victory in 2007. The willingness of the Welsh to run the ball from unpromising situations – “The Welsh Way” – isn’t suited to being crash tackled by 18 stone Polynesians. Gatland would be best to prepare his charges to play like Scotland but he probably won’t.
Wales are missing the nous and experience of Stephen Jones and Martin Williams. There is no experience coming off the bench at half back and Wales will hope that Phillips stays fit. The Welsh bench isn’t that good full stop and, surprisingly, Samoa have better front five replacements to choose from. Census Johnson, Joe Tekori and Oddjob doppelganger Paulo can all make an impact if required. However, their potency and skill isn’t in doubt and this matches promises to be very entertaining. Unfortunately, the bigger TV audiences in England and France mean this game is scheduled for 4.30 in the morning.
The Mole had Samoa to qualify from Pool D alongside the Boks. The quality of Wales’ performance against South Africa was surprising but the loss puts them into nervous territory. The bookies make Wales 8 point favourites. Mole will be backing Samoa.