Scotland facing stiff Samoa task
Scotland claim they will start as underdogs when they tackle Samoa in Durban on Saturday at the outset of the quadrangular tournament that also features hosts South Africa and Italy.
After all, pointed out by Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor, Samoa are ranked three places higher from the Scots by the International Rugby Board. And their recent scalps have included beating Wales at the Millennium Stadium, a feat Scotland have not achieved for 11 years.
"It is not that long ago that they beat the Six Nations champions, Wales, and they probably should have beaten France, so they are a very good team," Taylor said.
"We've had a good look at them and a lot of their patterns and moves are similar to those they use against the other Six Nations teams. I think we know what is coming, it is whether we are up to the challenge.
"Look at the IRB rankings where they are seventh and we are 10th, so in that respect we are the underdogs. They are a very, very good team and a proud rugby nation so we are going to have to be at our best to beat them."
While Scotland have never lost to Samoa, they have ridden their luck in recent games, needing a last-second kick to win in 2010 and a try and conversion two minutes from time for victory in Samoa last year.
In that most recent clash, the home side had been denied what looked a perfectly good try that would have put a win out of reach for the Scots. Taylor has some insight into the task facing his side, having coached some of the Samoan squad, including Daniel Leo and Ole Avei, when he was in charge of the defence with the Queensland Reds in Australia.
"It is going to be very difficult, they are very good ball carriers, good rugby players," he said. "I have been lucky enough to see them up close and they are exceptional players and good ball carriers, so it is going to be difficult for us.
"We have worked really hard on our defence over the last two weeks though. Structurally we feel we've really made gains in what we are trying to achieve. If you look at a lot of the Tests Samoa have played recently, they come really hard at your first three defenders round the ruck area, so we need to be our best around that channel.
"We have also had a good two weeks' solid preparation. A couple of their players have only come in on Tuesday morning. Having said that, they are an island team and these are sides that play heads-up rugby. If you let them do that, they are very hard sides to play. We have to make sure we don't give them momentum and that means fronting up."