England Ready For First Autumn Win
England v Samoa
England take on an experienced Samoan side on Saturday at Twickenham in the hope of ending their run of five consecutive defeats.
It’s been a bruising year for Stuart Lancaster’s England side: repeatedly tested against the best side in the world, yet left with nothing to show for it. After finishing second in the Six Nations, they battled through a three match tour of New Zealand, failing to win a game, then kicked off their autumn internationals with another defeat against the All Blacks and a narrow loss to South Africa last weekend.
Samoa made a poor start to 2014, suffering a heavy defeat in Toyko in their first game of the year, but they recovered to beat Fiji and draw with Tongo, to top the Pacific Islands Conference of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup. They also beat Italy by 15 points, but the Italians returned the favour two weeks ago in Samoa’s first autumn international. Their last outing was a 23-13 victory over Canada in Vannes.
England have made three changes to their matchday squad for Saturday. Billy Vunipola had a poor game against the Springboks and has been dropped, along with Danny Care. Ben Morgan is likely to come in at number eight, while Ben Youngs and Richard Wigglesworth will battle it out for the scrum-half position. Kyle Eastmond suffered concussion and has been replaced by Billy Twelvetrees.
Samoa’s players received a lot of criticism for their threat to boycott this game, and it remains to be seen what effect that will have on their morale. They certainly have the players to cause England problems, and while they are solid up front, their true strength lies in a powerful back line featuring the likes of Kahn Fotuali’i and George and Ken Pisi.
Samoa have taken on England on six occasions, but have lost every time, in fact, they haven’t come within ten points of England in any of their encounters, and their average margin of defeat is a touch under 21.
Three of those defeats have come during World Cups, the latest being in Nantes in 2007, when England ran in four tries and Jonny Wilkinson kicked twenty-four points to secure a comfortable 44-12 win in their Pool A game.
Their last meeting, four years ago at Twickenham, was one of the closer encounters. Samoa matched England’s two tries, but the boot of Toby Flood proved the difference as the home side ran out 26-13 winners.
Much has been made of England’s five consecutive defeats, but four of those have come against the All-Blacks and three of the four were narrow losses.
A defeat against Samoa would add to the sense of crisis, but under Stuart Lancaster, England are not the sort of side to underestimate an opponent and they won’t slip up against a dangerous Samoan side boasting a sprinkling of Premiership experience. Back England -17 at 4/6 in the Match Handicap market.