England have been rather subtle in their midfield selection for tomorrow's win-or-bust meeting with Samoa, pairing Jonny Wilkinson and Olly Barkley in the decision-making positions of outside-half and inside centre. The islanders, on the other hand, have taken a slightly less sophisticated approach. Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is a handful, as well as a mouthful, at No 10, but the holders will be most concerned by the man in the No 12 shirt. Yes, Brian Lima is back between the shafts and champing at the bit. Oh dear.
Lima, who admits to being 35, is playing in his fifth World Cup. Known as "The Chiropractor" because of his tackling style – opponents' backs tend not to be the same after a consultation with the man from Apia – he has recovered from a bout of concussion suffered during his country's defeat by South Africa in Paris 12 days ago. "He's fine," said the Samoan coach, Michael Jones, yesterday. "We had a neurological specialist look at him a couple of days after the Springbok game. He had the full CAT scan and cognitive tests, and came through with flying colours. He's raring to go."
By selecting this particular side, with the powerful Seilala Mapusua outside Lima and the mighty Tuilagi brothers, Henry and Alesana, at No 8 and left wing respectively, Jones has issued a statement of intent so clear that not even this befuddled England squad could misread the message. The great All Black flanker of yesteryear is a devout Christian, but he fully expects his men to forget about peace and understanding at Stade de la Beaujoire. "As the Bible says: it's better to give than to receive," he remarked, with the broadest of grins.
Like the rest of the Samoan party, Jones is concerned that the tackling that comes most naturally to the islanders – always hard, sometimes high, never anything less than comprehensive – is being legislated out of the union game. "If I was a young rugby player now, I'd probably take up rugby league," he said this week. "We have to be so careful nowadays, even though there has never been anything malicious in our approach. I feel the essence of Pacific rugby is being lost."
But Samoa are in a nothing-more-to-lose situation anyway, having been beaten by Tonga in Montpellier last Sunday. Defeat tomorrow will put them out of the tournament with a game still to play, so they are of a mind to throw the kitchen sink at England. "What you saw last weekend was a 'cool' Samoa," said Jones, who will leave his post at the end of the competition to concentrate on a new job with a New Zealand-based shipping company. "I would hope you will never see it again. This has been a pretty painful week for us, but we have this opportunity to redeem ourselves."
There were some bad tidings for Samoa, however. Gavin Williams, who put a fine try past the Boks and kicked 15 points against Tonga, has fractured a bone in his right hand and will miss the game. Loki Crichton moves from outside-half to full-back as a result.
England team to play Samoa, Nantes, Saturday: J Lewsey (Wasps), P Sackey (Wasps), M Tait (Newcastle), O Barkley (Bath), M Cueto (Sale Sharks), J Wilkinson (Newcastle), A Gomarsall (Harlequins), A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), G Chuter (Leicester), M Stevens (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester, capt), J Worsley (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins). Replacements: M Regan (Bristol), P Freshwater (Perpignan), S Borthwick (Bath), L Moody (Leicester), P Richards (London Irish), A Farrell (Saracens), D Hipkiss (Leicester).
Samoa: L Crichton (Worcester); D Lemi (Bristol), S Mapusua (London Irish); B Lima (Bristol), A Tuilagi (Leicester), E Fuimaono-Sapolu (Bath), J Polu (North Harbour); K Lealamanua (Dax), M Schwalger (Wellington Hurricanes), C Johnston (Saracens), J Tekori (Waitakere), K Thompson (Otago Highlanders), D Leo (Wasps), S Sititi (Docomo Kansai, capt), H Tuilagi (Perpignan). Replacements: T Fuga (Harlequins), F Palaamo (Leeds), J Purdie (Wellington), A Vaeluaga (Bristol), S So'oialo (Harlequins), J Meafou (Scopa), L Lui (Moata'a).Reuse content