Unlucky Wales will need to cast off the bitter disappointment of their one-point loss to defending champions South Africa as they prepare for a crucial Rugby World Cup clash with the dangerous Samoa on Sunday.
The Welsh, who have suffered two World Cup embarrassments against the powerful Pacific islanders, have a nightmare tournament start with the tough Pool D assignment in Hamilton coming a week after their nailbiting Springboks defeat.
A late sucker-punch by replacement Francois Hougaard stole a 17-16 victory for South Africa and denied a famous win for the Welsh, who were left cursing referee Wayne Barnes over a too-close-to-call penalty miss which was not referred to the video official.
Wales coach Warren Gatland urged his team to "take it on the chin" as they face up to a daunting fixture which could decide whether they reach the quarterfinals - or fail for the second World Cup in a row.
"They're very physical up front. We're expecting a tough encounter and we must go in confident," Gatland warned.
For the first time in a World Cup, Wales have the luxury of naming an unchanged starting line-up, with only prop Gethin Jenkins replacing Ryan Bevington on the bench.
Flanker Sam Warburton, aged just 22, will again captain the talented side which will need to maintain the high standards it showed in keeping South Africa mostly on the back foot last week.
Wales have lost twice to Samoa in the World Cup and both times in their home capital Cardiff, after a 31-38 shock in 1999 following a 13-16 reverse eight years earlier.
A third Rugby World Cup defeat to Samoa would mean the end of the road for Wales at RWC 2011, having suffered a similar fate in 2007 to Fiji, also fellow Pool D opponents in this the seventh-ever IRB World Cup.
"They're big powerful men, similar to South Africa. They like to off-load the ball and try to intercept a lot," said defence coach Shaun Edwards of the Samoans.
"We need to keep up our tackle percentage, which was good on the weekend. We need to create momentum to go forward and have variation around our ball players."
"There was plenty of negativity in the media about our game against South Africa, but we were very happy with how we performed on the weekend," he added.
"In the end we lost by one point. We can't afford to have any mistakes on the day."
Samoa are full of confidence after turning over highly-rated Australia in July in Sydney - moving their Prime Minister to tip the team as World Cup champions - and a rampaging opening win against Namibia this week.
Hulking winger Alesana Tuilagi, whose 1,94m (six foot four), 121 kilograms (267 pounds) frame has evoked comparisons with All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, ran in a ground-shaking hat-trick against the minnows, emphasising the size of Wales's task.
"We have to match his physicality," warned Gatland of Tuilagi.
"A lot of the guys know Tuilagi from [English club] Leicester and what he does there. He's not unfamiliar to a lot of players in the northern hemisphere and it's no surprise to us that he's made an impact early on in this competition."
Players to Watch:
For Wales: Despite missing a relatively easy drop-goal against the Boks - one that could have handed his team a win - flyhalf Rhys Priestland had a very tidy match against the world champions. Perhaps James Hook - at No.10 - is the answer to Wales's attack, but Priestland has been retained there, so he needs to lead Wales's charge. Openside flanker - and captain - Sam Warburton was most impressive against the Boks; earning the Man of the Match Award in many people's eyes. He will need a similar performance to keep his team in World Cup contention.
For Samoa: The key to any backline - even one as dangerous as Samoa's - is the 10-12 combination. For Samoa, Tusi Pisi (flyhalf) and Seilala Mapusua (inside centre) will decide just how much ball the likes of Tuilagi, Sailosi Tagicakibau and Paul William will see, whilst the importance of scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali'i - who will further his career in Wales after the World Cup - should not be under-estimated either.
Head to Head: There is no doubting who holds the physical advantage between Alesana Tuilagi - who weighs 121 kilograms - and his direct opponent, Wales's George North, who tips the scales at 105 kilograms. On the other wing Sailosi Tagicakibau - at 107 kilograms - also holds a weight advantage over his direct opponent Shane Williams (80 kilograms). Of course, as Williams has shown throughout his career size does not matter... but you will still watch this battle with interest; brains v brawn. Another one-on-one worth watching is between physical scrumhalves Fotuali'i (Samoa) and Mike Phillips (Wales); the former replacing the latter at the Ospreys after the World Cup.
2009: Wales won 17-13 in Cardiff
2000: Wales won 50-6 in Cardiff
1999: Samoa won 38-31 in Cardiff (World Cup)
1994: Samoa won 34-9 in Moamoa
1991: Samoa won 16-13 in Cardiff (World Cup)
Prediction: Alright... Really, this could go either way. In terms of the World Cup, Samoa hold a distinct advantage but Wales have won their last two encounters - the last of which was in 2009. Our call? We're going to give this one to Samoa - just... by five points - which, of course, would mean the Welsh missing out on the quarterfinals for a second tournament in a row.
Wales: 15 James Hook, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Scott Williams, 22 Leigh Halfpenny.
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Faasavalu, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (captain), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Manaia Salavea, 20 Jeremy Sua, 21 Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono, 22 Tasesa Lavea.
Date: Sunday, September 18
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 15.30 (03.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Showers clearing in the afternoon, with westerlies easing. Minimum of 6°C, high of 16°C.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Jérôme Garces (France)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
AFP & rugby365.com
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