Japan vs Samoa Live : It is easy to forget that Samoa head into Saturday night’s Pool A clash against Japan with their destiny still in their own hands, however remote that possibility may seem after their 34-0 shellacking by Scotland last week.
With a squad already stretched thin by injuries and suspension, the prospect of a five-day turnaround against the host nation is likely to be a bridge too far for Steve Jackson’s team.
Effectively, they are playing for pride, an expression usually patronisingly applied to underdogs, but which has real meaning to Samoa.
From a club’s perspective, signing a player heading to the World Cup is not an attractive proposition. Not only will they be absent for up to 10 weeks in warm-up camps and the tournament itself, but they are likely to arrive at the club battered and bruised.
So Lam – and many other players for tier-two countries – face an unenviable choice: contract or country. Protect your livelihood by announcing your international retirement or run the gauntlet of playing in the World Cup and see what comes up afterwards.
That is also the situation in which second row Filo Paulo found himself after being released by London Irish in the summer.
Paulo does not blame the clubs. From their perspective it is a pure business decision based on a risk-reward ratio, yet it is once again indicative of the handicaps tier-two countries continue to face.
“It is just the way it is,” Paulo said. “You just have to control what you can control. The guys before us have tried to make things fairer, but it is quite hard.”
Head coach Jackson has made six changes to the side who lost to Scotland in Kobe, including a new half-back pairing of Dwayne Polataivao and Ulupano Seuteni. There is also the possibility that two sets of brothers will take the field at the same time.
Captain Jack Lam and hooker Seilala will both start the match at the City of Toyota Stadium, while Jordan Lay starts at loosehead with his brother James on the bench.
“They’re the host nation and they’ve got a lot of backing obviously, so that’s a good opportunity for us,” Alistair Rogers, the assistant coach, said. “What better than to have a short turnaround and to play the host nation? We’re looking forward to that challenge.”