Rugby World Cup 2019: Samoa

World ranking: 16th

Qualification: Intercontinental playoff

Best result: Quarter-finals 1991, 95

TAB odds: $501

Chances: This group would have had Manu Samoa teams of old licking their lips with expectation. 

Given their contribution to the history of the World Cup, it's devastating to see how far they've fallen, only qualifying as one of the final teams in the draw. Don't hold your breath on another fairytale result.

Leading players:

Michael Alaalatoa

The outstanding Crusaders prop was a big part of the victorious 2019 campaign, cementing his role as a permanent starter.

Alaalatoa grew up in Australia and much like brother Allan, had dreams of playing for the Wallabies, making his Super Rugby debut for the Warratahs in 2014.

But a shift to New Zealand and the Manawatu Turbos in 2015 turned into a Super Rugby contract with the red-and-blacks. Away from the eyes of Australian coach Michael Cheika, Alaalatoa shifted his focus to Samoa, making his international debut earlier this year

Samoa have a genuine chance of progressing through to the quarter-finals, if they can upset Scotland in pool play - Alaalatoa's power game will be a big part of those plans. 

Melani Matavao

Livewire scrumhalf Melani Matavao played a key role in Samoa securing their place at Japan 2019, scoring four tries across the two legs of their decisive playoff against Germany last year. 

He's since sharpened his game on the sevens circuit and after recovering from injury to earn a place in the World Cup squad, he's set to be an attacking threat from No.9 for Samoa.

Squad:

Forwards: Afaesetiti Amosa, TJ Ioane, Jack Lam (captain), Piula Fa’asalele, Josh Tyrell, Chris Vui, Teofilo Paulo, Kane Leaupepe, Senio Toleafoa, Michael Alaalatoa, Paul Alo-Emile, James Lay, Jordan Lay, Logovi’i Mulipola, Motu Matu’u, Ray Niuia, Seilala Lam.

Backs: Ed Fidow, Tim Nanai-Williams, Ahsee Tuala, Belgium Tuatagaloa, Henry Taefu, Alapati Leiua, Reynold Lee-Lo, Kieron Fonotia, AJ Atatimu, Tusi Pisi, Ulupano Seuteni, Dwayne Polotaivao, Melani Matavao, Scott Malolua.

Pool draw (NZT)
September 24
Russia v Samoa, Kumagaya City, 10:15pm

September 30
Scotland v Samoa, Kobe City, 11:15pm

October 5
Japan v Samoa, Toyota City, 11:30pm

October 12
Ireland v Samoa, Fukuoka City, 11:45pm

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