RWC 2019 Pool B: New Zealand vs. South Africa
Venue: Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Kumagaya City
Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2019
The Russians opened the 2019 World Cup with a spirited 30-10 loss at the hands of host nation Japan. It was a closer game than most expected – especially given the way that the Japanese have dispatched Tier 2 countries over the last few years – but the Russians were the better side for large periods of the match. The Japanese work rate – combined with a few too many Russian mistakes – eventually cost the European qualifiers a shot at a huge upset, but they emerged from their game with their heads held high.
Samoa will be fresh as they start their 2019 World Cup campaign during the second round of group games. This is a young, inexperienced side (for the most part) but it is a team that will be expected to beat Russia convincingly here. Samoa are probably the biggest unknown in Pool A and the Pacific Islanders will feel they have a chance of upsetting the European powerhouses of Ireland and (especially) Scotland if they start well here.
The Russians will be tested here as coach Lyn Jones tries to prepare his squad for a physical battle on a rest period of just four days. This would be bad enough against any side, but when facing the most aggressive team in the pool – and the team with arguably the most physical ball carriers – it will be a tough task for a Russian squad light on quality outside of their top fifteen or so players.
The lack of squad depth tells in the Russian selection as they name an unchanged 23 as they look for their first-ever World Cup win at the sixth attempt.
Samoa will have eight of their starting XV players making their World Cup debuts in this match. That is a slight worry given their inexperience on the big stage, but this is a team that really believes they can get out of the pool stage for the first time since 1999. One player who does have bags of experience is fly-half Tusi Pisi. Pisi will be very much at home playing in Japan as the 37-year-old plays his club rugby for Toyota Industry Shuttles in the Japanese Top League.
The Samoans will be missing Jack Lam, but 10 of the starters from their last game – a 34-15 defeat by Australia – keep their places in the side. Watch for wing Ed Fidow who has scored eight tries in his first eight games for the country.
Samoa are the big favourites here as they get Russia at the perfect time. The Pacific Islanders are the 30-point favourites to win the game, with the prevailing wisdom saying that the Russians will tire late after such a short rest against the fresh Samoans. When you add in the emotional component of the Russians first game being the opening game of the tournament, then it is easy to see how they could find themselves smashed in the second half of this one.
Look for Samoa to run up tries late here in a pool where a big score against Russia could be important in determining second place. Samoa hasn’t covered as a 30-point favourite in eight games, but that changes here. Take them to win -30.5 at 1.00 with BetXChange.