ROTORUA, New Zealand (Reuters): Samoa sounded out a rugby World Cup warning to their Pool D rivals on Wednesday, bulldozing Namibia 49-12 with three ties from powerhouse winger Alesana Tuilagi.
The Pacific Island nation face Wales in Hamilton in four days time in the “group of death,” and while Wednesday’s impressive win will give them a boost they will be holding their breath that key players can shrug off injury concerns.
Samoan coach Titimaea Tafua was pleased with the way his team played in their World Cup opener but was sweating on the fitness of flyhalf Tusi Pisi and flanker Taiasina Tuifua.Both players exited the game in the first half at Rotorua’s International Stadium.
“That’s a worry for us. The medical people are still working on it -- we’ll know more tonight,” he said. “I haven’t had time to talk to the medical staff yet, but I do hope it’s not serious.” Wales have lost twice to Samoa at previous World Cups (1991, 1999) and Sunday’s match between them could decide which teams progress from the tournament’s toughest pool.
Reigning world champions South Africa (currently ranked 3rd), Wales (6th), Samoa (10th), Fiji (15th) and Namibia (20th) are battling for two berths in the quarter-finals.One of highlights for Samoa was hulking wing Alesana Tuilagi, who scored a hat-trick of tries and came through the game unscathed. Tuilagi was one of the standout players in Samoa’s upset 32-23 victory over Australia in a World Cup warm-up match in July.
The man known by his team mates as “The Bulldozer” was unstoppable from close to the line and while he is listed at 194cm and 111kgs, Samoan assistant coach Brian McLean said those measurements were inaccurate.“I think he’s actually 121kgs. He was unfit when he played Australia (in July) and was 126kgs,” he added. “But he’s now finally tuned at 121kgs. He’s quite a sight when he’s in full flight.”Samoa signalled their intentions from the start, running the ball out of their own 22 in the first minute and just 60 seconds later scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i was over for the first try.A crowd of almost 13,000, many waving Samoan flags, clearly enjoyed the Pacific Nation’s expansive playing style and while Namibia tried to contribute with some bustling forward work they were let down by errors that cost them possession.
Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger said his team would enjoy the win over Namibia before turning their attention to Wales, who lost 17-16 to South Africa on Sunday.
“I think Wales put on a good fight against the South Africans. This week is going to be different,” he added. “At the end of the day, the team that wants it more will come out on top.”