Samoa is facing a mounting injury crisis after limping to victory in their Rugby World Cup opener against Russia.
Hooker Motu Matu’u and halfback Dwayne Polataivao both failed concussions tests during the 34-9 victory in Kumagaya last night, while number eight Afa Amosa suffered what could be a tournament ending knee injury early in the second half.
Coach Steve Jackson, who was already without three key players for their tournament opener, admitted the prognosis was not good.
“Dwayne and Motu’u had HIA (Head Injury Assessment) so they failed their concussion test so they weren’t able to take the field again. Afa is going for a scan now and it doesn’t look good. It was from the tackle when he scored the try, twisted in an awkward position and he’s done some serious damage to his knee,” Steve Jackson said.
Alapati Leiua had scored the opening try of the match in the 16th minute before a lack of discipline allowed Russia to hit the front with back to back penalties.
Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u will be sweating on any news from the match citing commissioner after being sent to the sin bin in quick succession for dangerous tackles, which reduced Samoa to 13 players for eight minutes late in the first half, as they went into the break training 5-6.
Coach Steve Jackson said his players must be “smarter” with their tackling technique, arguing the moments of ill discipline cost Samoa valuable momentum.
“Our players have got to be better at that, better disciplined in terms of their tackle technique. (We’ve) got to wrap arms and I know they tried both times but it’s a collision so we’ve got to lower and be smarter around that area, as most teams do,” he said.
Jackson felt the yellow cards dished out was punishment enough and pointed out it also worked both ways.
“Especially in Rey (Lee-Lo)’s case he obviously wrapped one arm and we practice the tackle technique: you’ve got to keep your eyes up and when you drop your head and start to look to the ground you’re taking that into your own hands but I thought the right decision was made,” said Steve Jackson.
“We lost a player to injury from a similar tackle (by Kirill Gotovtsev) so he got a yellow card as well,” Steve Jackson said.
The referee was talked out of brandishing a red card to Rey Lee-Lo by the TMO but Russian coach Lyn Jones felt both incidents warranted harsher punishment.
“Of course it would have changed the game, it’s a different game isn’t it – two red cards in two minutes and the world’s a different place. However, in that period they were down to 13 we failed to take those opportunities to score points and when we were down a yellow card we gave away three tries and that’s disappointing,” Lyn Jones said.
A three try burst in eight minutes after half-time allayed any fears of Samoa falling victim to the first major upset of tournament, with Ed Fidow finding the line twice to take his impressive tally to 11 tries in only 10 tests, before Rey Lee-Lo and man of the match Alapati Leiua dotted down to add some gloss and secure the bonus point.
Veteran first five Tusi Pisi, who is competing in his third Rugby World Cup, admitted it was a somewhat frustrating start to the tournament.
“We got into the game with that first try and then we kind of took our foot off the pedal and kind of cruised through until that second half, so it was a bit frustrating…Obviously having those two yellow cards we were just trying to get back into the game, trying to get control of the game and that was good learning for us moving forward,” Tusi Pisi said.
Meanwhile Pisi became the oldest player to represent the Manu at the World Cup on Tuesday, at the ripe age of 37 years and 98 days young, beating the mark set by the late, great Peter Fatialofa.
“It’s a blessing to obviously first and foremost represent your country and represent my family and have my family here but we’re just on to the next one now, focusing on Scotland, Hopefully we can prepare well – we will prepare well and hopefully get that W,” Pisi said.
Samoa now have nine days off to rest and recover before their next match against Scotland in Kobe, which shapes as a must-win if they are to achieve their goal of reaching the quarter finals for the first time in 24 years.
Captain Jack Lam is expected to be fit again after missing their opening game, while winger Ahsee Tuala, who was a late withdrawal from the the Russia game, will also be assessed in the next couple of days.