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Outsiders ready to fight for progress

The fascination of Group B is not England but who will receive the dubious privilege of a quarter-final against South Africa by coming second and both Italy and Western Samoa, who meet in East London today, have a persuasive claim.

The different qualities of the Italians and Samoans as well as the Argentinians make the outcome tantalisingly unpredictable. But Italy are widely believed to be the fastest rising of the second-ranking rugby countries and the truth of that contention will be shown in how well they withstand the ferocity of the Samoan tackling.

This is both a mental and physical thing. Typically of Italian sportsmen, the rugby Azzurri have suspect temperaments and it was not until recently, under the ascetic regime of their French coach, Georges Coste, that they acted on the necessity of disciplining themselves.

Just like in the days a decade ago when Romania emerged as a force in European rugby, the Italians would now like consideration given to turning the Five Nations' Championship into six and their cause will be considerably advanced if they emulated Samoa's 1991 achievement of making the last eight here.

At the Basil Kenyon stadium today the Italians will know what to expect. This is more than could have been said of the Samoans' group opponents in '91, when they not only beat Wales but also ran the ultimate champions, Australia, closer than anyone bar England and trounced Argentina, with whom they will be reacquainted on Tuesday.

The Samoans' goal is a semi-final place when even a quarter-final place may be beyond them this time.

ITALY: P Vaccari (Milan); M Ravazzolo (Calvasino), I Francescato (Treviso), M Bonomi, Marcello Cuttitta (Milan); D Dominguez, A Troncon (Milan); Massimo Cuttitta (Milan, capt), C Orlandi (Piacenza), F Properzi-Curti, P Pedroni (Milan), R Favaro (Treviso), C Checchinato (Rovigo), J Gardner (Roma) O Arancio (Catania).

WESTERN SAMOA: M Umaga (Wellington); B Lima (Marist), T Vaega (Moataa), T Fa'amasino, G Harder (Marist); D Kellett (Counties), T Nu'uali'itia (Auckland); M Mika (Otago), T Leiasamaivao (Moataa), P Fatialofa (Manurewa, capt), L Falaniko (Marist), D Williams (Colomiers), S Vaifale (Marist), S Tatupu (Auckland), J Paramore (Manurewa).

Referee: J Dume (France).