Manu Samoa’s tight loss ‘bodes extremely well’ for World Cup upset

An incredibly narrow defeat at the hands of the world’s top-ranked side Ireland was yet another statement of the potential Manu Samoa has for an upset at the Rugby World Cup.

Samoa won two out of their three Tests in the Pacific Nations Cup, falling only to Fiji while toppling Japan and thumping Tonga.

Following the tournament, they have been boosted by a debut to former All Black Lima Sopoaga whose game management and experience guided the team around the park in last weekend’s tight encounter in Bayonne.

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While it wasn’t Andy Farrell’s first-choice team, Samoa’s ability to challenge the Irish outfit in the contact and around the field will have again put their Pool D competition on notice.

“The most impressive thing for me was, Ireland are normally that sort of (attack with) bodies in motion, dominant carries, getting across the gain-line,” James Parsons said on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod. “They kept the Irish to 33% gain line, which isn’t very high.

“They had 56% gain line themselves, they had almost double the metres with less carries. They had discipline, only five penalties.

“The two areas they’ll be looking at most I’d suggest is probably their lineout accuracy – so the scrum was fine, good dominance, they operated at 65%. Tough conditions but that’s going to be big if you can’t win that set piece it just means teams can kick to the sideline and almost (back themselves) to get the ball back – and then the maul defence.

“Outside of that, their accuracy defensively, their ability to manipulate the defence to create opportunity, yes they didn’t finish all the opportunities but it was tough conditions. Ireland had some opportunities as well that they didn’t finish.

“But it bodes extremely well and the one thing I like about it is there’s a lot of players in that side that are based in the northern hemisphere, so they know how they play. It’s quite a big advantage in that understanding of how they play and where to put pressure on, and I just think they got the balance right in terms of when to kick. They kicked quite a few times, 32 times, so they didn’t want to play too much in the wet, and when to pull trigger.

“I just think this balance of attack, this game management is really crucial to get right and that discipline which they nailed on the weekend.”

Having already defeated one of their Pool D rivals in Japan, coach Seilala Mapusua will know his team can compete for a spot in the quarter-finals. But, with England and Argentina also in the pool, it will take huge performances week in, and week out to progress.

The Samoans will start their World Cup campaign against Chile on September 17, after their bye in the opening week of the tournament.

As promising as the attacking performance against the Irish was, Parsons went on to commend the Samoans’ defensive effort. The former All Black highlighted the limited ways in which Ireland found success in the match against Tana Umaga’s defensive systems.

“On the face of it, it was a kick in behind which got a good bounce for one try and then the maul defence, where they just steamrolled over.

“Outside of that, their phase defence, they were hard to break down. They read Ireland’s kicking cues really well, the midfield would come up and then as they shaped to kick all three of them would drop back and they’d have that kick coverage sorted.

“They’re very aware of what their systems and their defence allowed them to do. Knowing Tana (Umaga), he’s very efficient in the defensive systems he runs and I suppose the simplicity of it.

“I think they’re in a good pool, they’re a genuine opportunity, I mean it could be a Fiji vs Samoa quarter-final.”

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