RWC 2023 Qualifier Spotlight: Samoa
Samoa’s best days on the Rugby World Cup stage have undoubtedly come at the start and the finish of the 1990s.
But the current group of players, reinvigorated under former Rugby World Cup player turned head coach Seilala Mapusua, will be hoping to write a new chapter in their country's tournament history in France when they take their place in Pool D in 2023 as Oceania 1.
Qualification via their 79-28 aggregate win in the two-legged play-off against Tonga means Samoa will contest their ninth consecutive tournament.
We take a look at Samoa's Rugby World Cup story.
RWC debut: 6 October, 1991 v Wales at Cardiff Arms Park
RWC appearances: Played 36 – Won 14, Draw 0, Lost 22 – Points for 770, Points against 867, Win percentage: 39 per cent
Most RWC appearances: Brian Lima, 18
Most RWC tries: Brian Lima, 10
Best finish: Quarter-finalists (1991, 1995)
Qualification for RWC 2023: Oceania 1
Most memorable match: Wales 13-16 Samoa, RWC 1991.
Few people in Wales had heard of Western Samoa when they pitched up at Cardiff Arms Park for their Rugby World Cup debut against the bronze medallists from the inaugural tournament.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but with players of the calibre of Apollo Perelini, Frank Bunce, Brian Lima and Pat Lam among the playing population of just 2,000, they were always going to be tough opponents, and so it proved.
To'o Vaega scored the first of Samoa's two tries, while Sila Vaifale got the other. Arthur Jones and Ieuan Evans both hit back for Wales in the final quarter after finally managing to make some headway in the face of a fierce defensive effort from the Samoans. Each side converted one of their tries but with Mathew Vaea out-kicking Mark Ring two penalties to one, it was Samoa who came out on top.
Iconic moment: To'o Vaega’s try v Wales.
With the match against Wales on a knife-edge at 3-3 at half-time, Samoa struck the first blow of the second half when Vaega scored their first-ever Rugby World Cup try – and what a try it was! Receiving the ball just in the Welsh half in the 42nd minute, the pacey outside centre cut through the defensive line with a rapid burst of acceleration before kicking ahead, while at full speed, and beating Robert Jones to the touchdown.
Low point: Being ‘nilled’ by Scotland.
When Samoa were beaten 34-0 by Scotland at Rugby World Cup 2019, it was the first time the team had failed to score in the tournament. Ed Fidow’s dismissal for two yellow card offences only added salt into the wounds.
Iconic player: Brian Lima.
While famous names like Frank Bunce, Steve Bachop, Pat Lam, Apollo Perelini and Va'aiga Tuigamala have all worn the blue jersey with distinction at a Rugby World Cup before, there can be no argument that winger Brian Lima is the player to have made the biggest impact in every sense of the word. The fearsome tackler was the first player to appear in five Rugby World Cups (1991 to 2007) – a feat now matched by Mauro Bergamasco and Sergio Parisse.
At Rugby World Cup 2003, Lima broke the record for consecutive tournament appearances (16).
Did you know?
Vavae Tuilagi became the fifth Tuilagi brother to play at a Rugby World Cup when he appeared against South Africa in the 2015 edition; his brothers Freddie, Henry and Alesana have all featured for Samoa in the tournament while Manu played for England in 2011.
"It's definitely the hardest tackle I've taken in my life but I'm still breathing and that's a good sign."
South Africa fly-half Derick Hougaard on the thumping tackle he received from Lima at RWC 2003.
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