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Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Samoa's gentlemen brutalise Wales

By Sean Davies
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium

It was like deja vu all over again as Samoa shook up Wales on the Millennium Stadium turf - so just what is it about games between these two countries?

James Hook is on the receiving end of a tackle by Anitelea Tuilagi
James Hook is on the receiving end of a tackle by Anitelea Tuilagi

It is not surprising that Wales don't know what to make of the islanders and their split personality - they have nothing but love and respect for Wales off the pitch, but as soon as they step on the field they seek to emasculate and mutilate the men in red.

Some may say it is not surprising that Samoa like playing Wales so much, given their famous World Cup wins in Cardiff in 1991 and 1999.

"I was a young fella watching and the two wins make a special bond," said Samoa captain George Stowers before the match.

"Before [the 1991 game] people would ask where is Samoa and then they knew where it was.

"I think every time Wales play Samoa, it's always going to bring back the memories of those games in the history."


Then, within minutes of kick-off, Lolo Lui was sin-binned for a late smash on 70-cap man Dwayne Peel.

Henry Tuilagi and his muscle-bound cohorts proceeded to brutalise their opponents for 80 minutes.

Wales were rattled, their composure shaken by the flying blue shirts that accompanied every run with the ball.

Wales' coaching team bemoaned the lack of clinical finishing and the failure to build a high-intensity, ball-handling game, but decision-making was disrupted by the sheer physical intensity of the Test, factors in previous Samoa wins in 1991, 1994 and 1999.

Despite their narrow defeat, Samoa did a post-match lap of the Millennium Stadium, the home crowd and hard-core travelling support showing their appreciation for the islanders' efforts.

Samoa captain George Stowers shows his passion in the Siva Tau
Samoa captain George Stowers shows his passion in the Siva Tau

At the post-match media conference, Stowers, coach Fuimano Tafua and team manager Matthew Vaea entered, exuding nothing but low-key humility and gentle smiles.

The journalists pressed for a headline, and got back that Wales deserved to win, that Samoa themselves had lost control at the late collapsed scrum on the Wales line, and that they were grateful for the chance to play against a tier-one rugby nation.

So will this performance boost Samoa for their World Cup clash with Wales in New Zealand in 2011?

"It's 20 months away so a lot can happen," said Tafua, Stowers adding that he just hopes to be fit and available for selection for the big match. Dynamite news.

The quiet, under-stated achievement seems to sum up both the virtues of Samoan rugby and the problems faced by the island nation.

Wales were the first of the so-called major rugby nations to tour Samoa, visiting in 1986 and 1994.

Seilala Mapusua
Seilala Mapusua at the end of the Millennium Stadium defeat

The islanders were hugely grateful for the recognition, but few countries have followed, and invitations for major Tests on November tours to Europe are few and far between.

It is not hard to see why, Samoa's population of under 200,000 offering little commercial potential.

Then you can examine Wales' experience in 1994, where they were given another physical mauling in the stifling heat of Apia, falling to a 34-9 defeat.

No-one can argue against the fact that Samoa deserve all the help the International Rugby Board can offer in developing their game that offers so much passion, commitment, flair and devastating physical confrontation.

But set that against low cash-generating potential and the fact that tier-one countries face a tough, no-win situation against Samoa, and the fact remains that big games are likely to be few and far between.

Come the 2011 World Cup, though, and Samoa will have fervent support in New Zealand, fuelled further by feelings of injustice at their treatment by the wider rugby world.

The Polynesians will again be out to make a mark.

And Wales are back in the firing line.

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see also
Wales 17-13 Samoa
13 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales v Samoa as it happened
13 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
The bone-rattlers: Samoan rugby
04 Aug 09 |  Rugby Union
Samoan rugby songs & war dance
13 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Wales v Samoa: Full record
31 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Country profile: Samoa
19 Oct 11 |  Country profiles

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