Three teams have yet to take their bow at the Rugby World Cup: the North American duo of Canada and USA, and Samoa who play tonight. Will they be one of the also-rans or a contender?
Russia vs Samoa (7.15pm Japan time)
Samoa used to be one of the teams most neutrals got excited about, but sadly, their time seems to have passed.
The horse of player eligibility and poaching has long bolted, with most of the best Samoan players having a father/grandfather who were – or were themselves – made offers they couldn’t refuse (Tuilagi, Savea, Ioane, Aki, Umaga, Nonu, Muliaina, Mealamu, Toeava, Lealiifano, Toomua, Allalatoa, Sio, etc etc etc).
What they are left with are the loyal quality few, the not-so-good who qualify by descent/heritage, and the raw youngsters who will get contracts if they play well but then are unlikely to play much for their country again because the clubs now control them.
Such is the life of players from the poor nations.
Still, we never know which Samoa we will get and this is a match very much worth watching.
Russia we know are tough and combative, and have some quality players, especially at flanker, outside-centre and fullback.
The last time we watched Samoa, they looked unfit and not at all cohesive.
Still, they could be the group spoilers, the banana skins: Japan and Scotland especially will be watching closely.