RWC 2019 Pool A: Ireland vs Samoa
Venue: Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka
Date: Saturday, October 12, 2019
Ireland are looking for a bonus point victory in their last pool game against a Samoan side that has already been eliminated from tournament progression. That win would take Ireland to the top of Pool A with the match between Japan and Scotland on Sunday then deciding whether the Irish top the pool and face South Africa in the quarter-finals or if they finish second and have to play against New Zealand.
The biggest concern going into this for Ireland is that the state of the pitch – a pitch which has been relaid in sections twice already this tournament – simply isn’t good enough for a game of this magnitude. The worry is that the surface isn’t safe and that Ireland’s chances of making a deep World Cup run could be hurt if one of their key players is injured due to the surface.
Ireland opened the tournament with a convincing win over Scotland before falling 19-12 to Japan in the biggest upset of the 2019 World Cup to date. Things went well (eventually) against a dogged Russia, with Ireland pouring on points late for a bonus point win.
Samoa are only here to play spoiler at this point. They had their World Cup moment in their first game as they took down Russia 34-9. Back to back defeats at the hands of Scotland (34-0) and Japan (38-19) eliminated Samoa from contention, with the Pacific Islanders guaranteed to finish fourth in the pool. A shock win here could still see Ireland eliminated from the World Cup at the first hurdle.
Joe Schmidt will be delighted to see inside centre Robbie Henshaw get his first minutes of the World Cup in this one as he makes a timely return from a hamstring injury. There are 11 changes in all from the team that beat Russia, with pivot Johnny Sexton and centre Bundee Aki two of the four that remain. Schmidt has had to keep some of his major players in this game at a time when he would love to have rested them after the defeat at the hands of Japan changed the whole outlook of this pool.
Samoa have kept a mostly settled team for this clash with the Irish. coach Vaeluaga Steve Jackson has made just a pair of changes from the side the was defeated by Japan with Logovii Mulipola back into the starting XV and prop and Teofilo Paulo coming in at lock. Those changes see Jordan Lay and Piula Faasalele drop to the bench. The dangerous Henry Taefu will be looking for more help from his teammates in this one as he scored all 19 points in the game against Japan.
Ireland are the firm favourites here which is as expected. Samoa have a number of physical units in the team, but they lacked spark and creativity against Scotland which saw them slump to a defeat where they scored no points. I would expect a little more from the Samoans here, but Ireland needs a big game to kickstart their World Cup after looking underwhelming with ball in hand to this point. Take Ireland to win and cover at -27.5 paying 0.85 with BetXchange.