Well, if someone asked you to predict what was going to happen at Twickenham it might have gone something like this: Samoa will hit England into next week, be in the game at 60 minutes and England will finally overpower their visitors for a comfortable-ish victory.
Well that just about sums up what happened at HQ this afternoon. Very few people at the game thought Samoa were ever going to win but the 26-13 scoreline is certainly the closest between the sides.
England have always had trouble putting the Samoans away and perhaps after this game everyone will realise that’s because Samoa are a cracking international team. With more matches, home and away, they would break into the world’s top eight I have no doubt.
England are however a team in the middle of their best run for seven years (three wins in four games) and it showed as they just did not understand how to lose against Samoa and finally pulled clear via the boot of Toby Flood and an excellent try from Tom Croft with eight minutes left that put them 26-8 ahead and out of sight.
The Samoans have some exceptional players in Alesana Tuilagi and Seilala Mapusua and they are also far better than the sum of their parts, which is a huge lesson for England.
So often in the last seven years England have been so much less than the sum of their parts. They have underachieved and failed to show the desire to take them back in the world’s top three. Samoa have desire, passion and commitment in abundance, which makes them tackle harder than any other side, be more committed at the breakdown that most teams and make 134 tackles against England and be ready for more.
Why couldn’t England show those sort of stats when they lose? If England could bottle what the Samoans have they won be world champions every time!
England made four changes to the side that beat Australia so I think it is worth analysing those changes.
David Wilson for Dan Cole – Wilson has been in exceptional form for Bath, especially in the loose but it still 10 points behind Cole after this match. Cole is now one of the foremost tighthead technicians in the northern hemisphere. Verdict: Cole still has the shirt, but Wilson is the perfect understudy.
James Haskell for Tom Croft – Big hits are Haskell’s forte and he held well against Samoa although Croft showed with his try why he is so crucial to England’s new, expansive game plan. Verdict: Haskell closed the gap and showed he is ideal for certain opponents but Croft still had the shirt.
Hendre Fourie for Lewis Moody – You can see exactly why Martin Johnson rates Fourie. He looked like he was playing his 50th start not his first. Strong as an ox he is formidable over the ball. Verdict: But Moody is Moody and stays ahead because he brings so much to England in other areas but what a discovery Johnson has made in Fourie.
Matt Banahan for Mike Tindal – Many were sceptical about moving the Jersey Juggernaut into the centres but this game proves that the English Sonny Bill Williams belongs at outside centre. He still has a lot to learn but is a big threat and showed today for a big man he has great hands. Verdict: He hasn’t quite overcome Tindall but I think we may have seen the heir apparent to his jersey. Needs to play 13 more often.
PS – The Pacific Islanders have clearly moved on since the last World Cup, but we’ll only be able to judge them properly at the World Cup or if the “big boys club” as Samoa centre Seilala Mapusua described after the game travel to Samoa, Fiji or Tonga to play the Pacific Islanders.
It is a disgrace that New Zealand, England, Wales, Scotland, Australia, South Africa or Ireland have been to any of the Pacific Islands since Ireland played Samoa in Apia in 2003. The rugby world should hang it’s head in shame at this statistic!
How on earth the IRB let them get away with it is astonishing. The recent tours schedule should have included matches in the Islands for all the top nine sides.
England (6) 26
Tries: Banahan, Croft Cons: Flood 2 Pens: Flood 4
Samoa (3) 13
Tries: P.Williams, Otto Pens: P.Williams