Preview: New Zealand v Samoa
Sportal.co.nz 02 Sep 2008 Getty Images
VENUE & TIME: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Wednesday September 3, 19:35 NZT.
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 4 - New Zealand 4, Samoa 0.
LAST TIME: June 16, 2001 (Albany) - New Zealand 50-6 Samoa.
WALKING WOUNDED: The All Blacks have a few players out with niggles but for Samoa it has not been injury that has led to the unavailability of players but European clubs refusing to release them. Most notably out for the All Blacks is regular captain Richie McCaw being rested due to his injured ribs. Others rested include wing Sitiveni Sivivatu (ankle), lock Brad Thorn (hamstring) and prop John Afoa (shoulder). Aside from these players being rested, the All Blacks will field a full-strength side on Wednesday night.
FORM: The All Blacks are coming off two big wins and are looking like claiming the Tri Nations title once more. These wins have reaffirmed New Zealand as the best side in the world and its IRB ranking confirms this. The All Blacks look to have secured all areas of play and have been especially dominant in its set pieces. The backline has also clicked and is looking lethal. Samoa has a current IRB ranking of 12, this is no doubt because of its fourth placing in the Pacific Nations Cup back in July. This was also the last time Samoa played and this team is almost entirely different. As a result a sure pointer on its form is uncertain.
WHO'S HOT: Take your pick in the All Blacks side as all players are looking good. The tight five is solid. Lock Ali Williams is going from strength to strength while Jerome Kaino has come into his own in the number six jersey and will want to secure a starting spot against Australia. First five-eighths Dan Carter has been consistently outstanding and has a superb halfback in Jimmy Cowan who has really stepped-up his game over the previous outings. Second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu is bound to cause Samoa all sorts of trouble and will link up with Conrad Smith in the centres. The back three of Richard Kahui, Anthony Tuitavake and Mils Muliaina are all extremely dangerous. Samoa is very much an unknown quantity but will no doubt possess some big, hearted forwards and quick illusive backs. Semo Setito and captain Felipo Levi will use their experience from the front and will be relying on the backs to finish the hard yards they put in up-front.
WE THINK: This will no doubt be an easy win for an All Black team that had all guns blazing last time it played. It will be an excellent opportunity for New Zealand to try new things and perfect some aspects of its game that need work before playing Australia on September 13. Samoa will come out firing and will try to beat the All Blacks up with huge tackles and aggressive contact. This kind of intensity won't last for too long however as the Kiwi's skill level begins to take a physical and mental toll.
New Zealand 1- Tony Woodcock, 2 - Andrew Hore, 3 - Greg Somerville, 4 - Anthony Boric, 5 - Ali Williams, 6 - Jerome Kaino, 7 - Adam Thomson, 8 - Rodney So'oialo (captain), 9 - Jimmy Cowan, 10 - Dan Carter, 11 - Anthony Tuitavake, 12 - Ma'a Nonu, 13 - Conrad Smith, 14 - Richard Kahui, 15 - Mils Muliaina.
Reserves: 16 - Keven Mealamu, 17 - Neemia Tialata, 18 - Sione Lauaki, 19 - Piri Weepu, 20 - Stephen Donald, 21 - Isaia Toeava, 22 - Rudi Wulf.
Samoa 1 - Simon Lemalu , 2 - Loleni Tafuna, 3 - Heroshi Tea, 4 - Filipo Levi (captain), 5 - Chad Slade, 6 - Semo Sititi, 7 - Alafoti Faosiliva, 8 - George Stowers, 9 - Notise Tauafao, 10 - Uale Mai, 11 - Esera Lauina, 12 - Jerry Meafou, 13 - Pale Toelupe, 14 - Reupena Levasa, 15 - Alatasi Tupou.
Reserves: 16 - Lafoga Aoelua, 17 - Roysiu Tolufale, 18 - Maselino Paulino, 19 - Simaika Mikaele, 20 - Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 - Roger Warren, 22 - Romi Ropati.
REFEREE: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
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