Lancaster wary of Samoa threat


Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Stuart Lancaster has warned his England team that Samoa will arrive at Twickenham determined to win their “cup final”.

Successive defeats to New Zealand and South Africa have transformed Saturday’s QBE International against the Pacific Islanders into a critical fixture as the Red Rose attempt to end a five-Test losing run.

Samoa’s players had considered boycotting the game due to their concerns over the mismanagement of their union and while that threat has been withdrawn, they are eager to make a statement at England’s expense.

“We’re expecting physicality, pride and passion from Samoa. This game is their cup final. It’s a great opportunity for them and they’ll be hugely motivated,” head coach Lancaster said.

“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.

“It will be incredibly competitive right from the start. 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 in personnel to the team defeated 31-28 by the Springboks as he seeks a reaction to an alarming slump just 10 months out from the World Cup.

The performances of George Ford at fly-half and Owen Farrell at inside centre will be under the microscope as the former school friends reprise the partnership that served England well at age group level.

Ben Youngs has been brought in at scrum-half and Rob Webber is given a chance at hooker because of Dylan Hartley’s brainless yellow card against South Africa, while the return of flanker James Haskell and number eight Ben Morgan completes an overhaul of the back row.

“Certainly we need to improve the quality of our performance. The players have been told that and we have made changes to create that,” Lancaster said.

“You get to a point around this time of the week when your work is done and the players have to take the responsibility for delivering.”

An area of strength for England in the past has been their back row, but Lancaster felt compelled to react to a decline in form from Tom Wood and Billy Vunipola.

It is the first time Wood has been dropped by Lancaster, but the head coach hopes the presence of Wasps captain Haskell will offer another source of momentum.

“James will offer another carrying option, giving us more ball carriers than we’ve had,” Lancaster said.

“Billy Vunipola is obviously a strong carrier, but perhaps we didn’t have enough around him in the type of game we ended up playing against South Africa.”

Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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