Friday, November 13, 2009
Samoa take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium tonight in what should be an intriguing match that's filled with intensity and no doubt, the occasional bruising hit. Wales will be favourites, but right of the Samoans at your peril, as the Welsh found out in both 1991 and 1999.
The 6th of October 1991 was, at that time, by far the darkest day in Welsh rugby history. A country rich in rugby culture and respected and feared in the seventies particularly, the proud nation of Wales was taken totally off guard by the under-dog Western Samoan team.
It was a World Cup pool match at Cardiff Arms Park which Wales fully expected to win. The result meant that they failed to make it out of their group.
The Western Samoans did boast the likes of Apollo Perelini, Frank Bunce, Brian Lima, Stephen Bachop, and Pat Lam, but were still a largely unknown factor in their first ever World Cup.
After the match, there was a famous remark made that went something like "Thank heavens Wales weren't playing the whole of Samoa."
In 1999, history repeated itself as Wales once again went down to the South Sea Islands, who were then competing solely as Samoa. It was the World Cup again, and Wales were the hosts, so after the last two failures, they were determined to do better.
Graham Henry was coach, and Rob Howley captain.
"Whilst everything was pretty rosy, the Samoan team that day had Va'aiga Tuigamala and Pat Lam playing for them, along with Graham Bachop who had actually been coached by Graham Henry," Howley said.
"In the Samoan game they did a job on our ball-carrying players and we could not create any forward moves at all because we were relying on those particular players."
Wales lost the match 38-31, and the Samoans picked up yet another World Cup win over a great rugby nation.
So while tonight it isn't the World Cup, and Wales are still the favourites to win the encounter, they'll no doubt be a little more wary of the hard hitting Samoans than they were back in '91, and '99. It should be another cracking match.