Lancaster: We expect physicality

2014-11-21 10:37
Stuart Lancaster (AFP)

London - England coach Stuart Lancaster has warned the 2015 Rugby World Cup hosts to expect a fired-up Samoa side playing their "cup final" at Twickenham on Saturday.

The third of England's four November internationals, the clash with the Pacific Islanders always looked the most 'winnable' of a Twickenham series that has already featured contests against world champions New Zealand and South Africa and culminates with next weekend's clash against World Cup pool rivals Australia.

But successive defeats by the All Blacks (24-21) and the Springboks (31-28) have turned Saturday's match into a 'must-win' fixture for an England side bidding to end a run of five straight defeats, albeit four have been at the hands of New Zealand.

What will be England's seventh international against Samoa - the Red Rose brigade have won all six previous encounters - was imperilled when the visitors considered boycotting the match in protest at their treatment by the Samoa Rugby Union.

Although the strike threat has been withdrawn, the underlying tensions that caused the Samoa team to contemplate such drastic action remain.

Not that Lancaster is expecting the controversy to in any way lessen the on-field impact of the traditionally tough-tackling Samoans.

"We're expecting physicality, pride and passion from Samoa," said Lancaster.

"This game is their cup final. It's a great opportunity for them and they'll be hugely motivated."

And for all England's success against Samoa in the past, Lancaster insisted this weekend's clash had the potential to trip up his side if they were not completely on their game.

"I watched them beat Wales in Cardiff a couple of years ago (29-16 in November 2012) in a similar fixture. They are very difficult opposition, so we need to be at our best.

"Just look at the Wales v Fiji game last weekend...Fiji almost won it (losing 17-13).

"We know it's not a game we can take lightly whatsoever because they'll be putting us under pressure."

Lancaster has made five changes and a positional switch to his side.

Under-performing flyhalf Owen Farrell has been moved to inside centre, with Lancaster giving a first Test to Bath stand-off George Ford, all of whose four previous caps have come off the bench.

Lancaster has also dropped scrumhalf Danny Care and recalled Ben Youngs.

Ford and Farrell have been friends since their schooldays and have previously enjoyed success with England youth sides.

Meanwhile, No 8 Ben Morgan, who impressed off the bench against South Africa after Billy Vunipola made several handling errors, has been given a start while flanker James Haskell returns in place of Tom Wood, dropped for the first time time by Lancaster.

"James will offer another carrying option, giving us more ball carriers than we've had," Lancaster said.

Rob Webber has been handed a start at hooker following Dylan Hartley's needless yellow card against the Springboks.

"Certainly we need to improve the quality of our performance," said Lancaster, who was at pains to stress the fact Farrell's father Andy is England's backs coach played no part in the Saracens star staying in the side, albeit in a different position.

Samoa have made six changes to the starting XV that beat Canada 23-13 in Vannes, north-west France, last week.

Ken Pisi is at fullback, Johnny Leota comes in at inside centre and Tusi Pisi starts at flyhalf, while backrow Jack Lam, lock Kane Thompson and Ti'i Paulo are all in a reshaped pack.

Samoa captain David Lemi said the boycott row had bolstered rather than weakened their resolve.

"It has brought us together and given us more tightness in our preparation and focus for Saturday," Lemi said.

"It is a good test for us - we play the tier two nations but to play against a top five side in the world is a test for us and will tell us where we are ahead of the World Cup," the wing added.

Read more on:    england  |  stuart lancaster  |  rugby

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