Telstra Dome, Melbourne
26 October 2003
Half Time England 13 v 16 Samoa
Full Time England 35 v 22 Samoa
Ref: Kaplan (SA)
So who said that England would provide no entertainment this RWC? I admit it was not their panache and free-flowing play that had my adrenaline running on Sunday morning, but what a game!
Samoa united heart and technique with great effect to make snowmen out of the mighty white orks. It has been far too long since I saw a team play with such sheer joy of the game. Sititi eating up the ground, Lima eating up the opposition, Fanaloa organising and dispearsing the ball. Samoa just looked more relaxed on the ball, more confident in their team mates and, heaven forbid, like a team with a plan.
England looked lost, lacking confidence in themselves and each other. There were so many weaknesses obvious that it really would be futile to try and list them all here. Anyone who saw the game can see them as well as I. Anyone who didn't see it get the bloody video, unless you're English you will not help but enjoy yourself.
England made their own moments of joy in the game as well - Wilko's kick for Balshaws try and Vickery's sidestep - but for too much of the game choked under the weight of their own expectation. How about next game we play the fly half at fly half and the scrum half at scrum half and everyone else get the hell out of the way. Woodwards rugby vision the XV man rugby, where the backs and forwards interchange looked silly and misguided yesterday. Only one team had 15 players in common purpose and energy and it was not England.
Only 15% of the words England utter as a team register as anything more then glib but when they speak truths they speak mighty truths. 'Samoa played great rugby, England do not look like world champs.' I believe they can still win but I will always believe they can still win. I hope that the England players do not forget they can still win. It could yet inspire them to new heights. Otherwise we are reduced to victories on the back of preparation and fitness alone - and they are hardly victories.
Samoa must now receive IRB and international support. The "what-ifs?" that follow this team are too numerous and large to be ignored. The European clubs who receive the talents of these great islanders should not just allow the players to play internationals but should feel under obligation to support them when they play for their nations. Trevor Leota (the hardest tackler in Europe), George Harder, Feaunat where were you? The NZ club that refused to allow Loki Chriton to play for Samoa should be fined and NZRFU must actively encourage young players to represent the countries of their birth.
Finally we must question the seeding system that means Wales and Scotland progress whilst Samoa must beat SA to progress to the 1/4 finals! Why has their not been greater recognition of Samoas's world cup record? It seems the IRB has no intention of increasing Samoa's lot by their own motivation. So bring on an upset when maybe the IRB can see the support and good will that an achieving underdog can generate. It is our duty as rugby supporters to get behind Samoa now and send a resounding message that we the revenue donors want more big boys being humbled. Onward Samoa!! Beat the springboks!