Lancaster warns England to expect fired up Samoa

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has warned his players to expect a Samoan team that will be fired up and viewing this weekend’s Test as their “cup final” at Twickenham on Saturday.

England’s Test this week against Samoa is the only match in November in which England will be facing a team with a lower ranking than themselves but after losses to New Zealand and South Africa and Australia ahead this match has become a must win match.

England have lost their last two matches this month – All Blacks (24-21) and the Springboks (31-28) – by three points and have slipped from third place in the IRB rankings to fifth place.

Lancaster’s England will play their seventh international against Samoa since records began and the previous six have all been won by England.

The match was in doubt last week as the Samoan players threatened to boycott the match but this has now been averted although 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 fly-half 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 scrum-half 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 fly-half, while back-row 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.

Teams

England

Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (capt), James Haskell; Courtney Lawes, Dave Attwood; David Wilson, Rob Webber, Joe Marler

Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, George Kruis, Tom Wood, Richard Wigglesworth, Billy Twelvetrees, Marland Yarde

Samoa

Ken Pisi; Alapati Leiua, Reynold Lee-Lo, Johnny Leota, David Lemi (capt); Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali’i; Ofisa Treviranus, Jack Lam, Maurie Fa’asavalu; Kane Thompson, Teofilo Paulo; Census Johnston, Ti’i Paulo, Sakaria Taulafo

Replacements: Manu Leiataua, Vilamu Afatia, Anthony Perenise, Fa’atiga Lemalu, Daniel Leo, TJ Ioane, Pete Cowley, Michael Stanley

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