Billy Vunipola warned Manu Tuilagi that Samoa would be out to target him having been on the receiving end of some rough Pacific Island justice in the last World Cup against Tonga.
England No 8 Vunipola, whose father Fe’ao represented Tonga at the 1995 and 1999 World Cups, was on the receiving end of a Zane Kapeli missile that deposited him firmly on his backside. The wild cheers on the Tongan sideline left Vunipola in no doubt that he was singled out for his ancestry.
When is it?
England will play Samoa on Saturday, Oct 7, with the match kicking off at 4.45pm (BST, 5.45pm local time).
Where is it?
Stade Pierre-Mauroy is the home of French football team LOSC Lille. The stadium was renamed in 2013, following the death of the former Mayor of Lille and former prime minister of France Pierre Mauroy.
With a capacity of just over 50,000, Stade Pierre-Mauroy is the one of the largest stadiums in France. Built in 2012, the stadium features a retractable roof and has solar panels and two wind turbines, which provide an electricity supply.
The stadium will host five pool-stage matches including two of England’s games and will also be the venue for the handball and basketball tournaments in the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Who is the referee?
Andrew Brace will take charge of this fixture. Brace came in for criticism back in 2020 for his performance in England’s Autumn Nations Cup game against France but is now a regular for top Tests, including recently England’s loss to Argentina and Scotland’s Six Nations win over Wales.
How to watch on TV
ITV has exclusive broadcast rights to show the Rugby World Cup in the UK. This match will be on ITV1.
Radio commentary will be available only on the BBC, across Radio 5 Live, 5 Sports Extra and the BBC Sounds service. The BBC says there will be a “bespoke output” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
How do I get tickets?
Tickets for this match are still available and can be purchased via the official Rugby World Cup ticket portal.
What is the latest news?
With England facing Samoa in their final Pool D match on Oct 7, Vunipola has no doubt that Tuilagi, whose brothers represented Samoa, will be in line for similar treatment.
“I know for a fact that the Samoan boys, as much as they respect and hold Manu in high regard for what he has done for exposure in his heritage, they will want to go after him,” Vunipola said. “Everyone knows Manu can look after himself. We will be right next him trying to help as much as we can.
“It happened the last World Cup against Tonga when I remember getting put on my backside and I remember looking up and everyone was cheering on the side of the pitch like they won the game. If I were to put myself in a Tongan shirt I would think, let’s go get this Tongan kid or who thinks he’s a Tongan kid even if he is on the other side. I still remember the image of them cheering on the bench and it made me laugh.
“The challenge for us is how we can negate their physical attributes in a game that they want to be physical and they will be emotionally charged. We have to be ready for that onslaught of energy, physicality and also the durability to ride those waves against a team like Samoa who are going to bring all of that.”
After the fast and frenetic 71-0 match against Chile, a match against the hard-hitting Samoans is much more likely to suit Vunipola’s strengths as a power carrier and tackler. It has been a frustrating few weeks for the 30-year-old, who served a two-match suspension following his sending off for a high tackle on Irish prop Andrew Porter.
That meant extra fitness sessions with Aled Walters, England’s head of strength and conditioning. “Once he found out I know how to work a Wattbike, he tried to use other apparatus to challenge me,” Vunipola said. “I’ve been on the rower now, which is very different. I don’t know how people do that sport but it’s very tough.”
With Ben Earl shining in his absence, Vunipola returned as a replacement against Japan and was unable to stamp his mark on the game against Chile, making just five carries. That, however, has not dented his confidence that he can still make an impression on this World Cup.
“It’s funny to say this because we beat them (Chile) quite convincingly but it’s tough for me to try and take all the onus on myself when everyone else is very keen to try and get the ball in their hands,” Vunipola said. “If that means giving the ball to Faz [Owen Farrell] more often then so be it. But I’m supremely confident in what I bring and against physical teams I know I can hold my own and I’m not saying Chile weren’t physical, but it’s harder.
“Obviously I would have liked to have had 15-16 carries but at the end of the day that’s not what the team needed from me on Saturday. The team needed me to sometimes be first arriver at the breakdown. That’s not often my role and as much as I wanted to get my hands on the ball I fell into that role and I was happy to oblige with what the team needed on the weekend. But I felt positive coming away because the forwards put the backs in positions where they could run free and attack.”
What is the recent history between the teams?
England and Samoa have played each other on eight occasions with England maintaining a 100 per cent record having won every match.
In their most recent meeting outside of a World Cup, England secured a 48-14 victory over Samoa at Twickenham during the 2017 autumn internationals.
What are England’s pool other matches?
Saturday, Sept 9 – England 27 v Argentina 10
Sunday, Sept 17 – England 34 Japan 12
Saturday, Sept 23 – England 71 Chile 0
Who is in the England squad?
England’s squad selection for the Rugby World Cup was severely disrupted by injuries and suspensions. Steve Borthwick named his 33-man squad on Aug 7. But after that date:
Owen Farrell received a four-match ban – that ruled him out of the opening two World Cup games – for a high-tackle during a warm-up match against Wales;
Jack van Poortvliet was ruled out of the squad through injury, and replaced by Alex Mitchell;
Billy Vunipola was suspended for three games, for a similar high tackle against Ireland, but had his ban reduced by attending “tackle school” and returned against Japan;
Anthony Watson was sidelined by injury and replaced by Jonny May.
You can read Will Greenwood’s verdict on the men who have been selected.
Who is in the Samoa squad?
Seilala Mapuusa, the Samoa coach, has picked three former All Blacks in his World Cup squad: fly-half Lima Sopoaga, flanker Steven Luatua and prop Charlie Faumuina. Fly-half Christian Leali’ifano, also in the Samoa squad, represented Australia at the 2019 World Cup.
Mapuusa also announced co-captains for the World Cup, with Chris Vui and Michael Alaalatoa sharing leadership duties.
Samoa’s squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup
Backs: Neria Foma’i, Alai D’Angelo Leuila, Nigel Ah Wong, Ben Lam, Ed Fidow, Tumua Manu, Danny Toala, Ulupano Junior Seuteni, Duncan Paia’aua, Lima Sopoaga, Christian Leali’ifano, Jonathan Taumateine, Ereatara Enari, Melani Matavao.
Forwards: Fritz Lee, So’otala Fa’aso’o, Jordan Taufua, Alamanda Motuga, Miracle Fai’ilagi, Steven Luatua, Taleni Seu, Chris Vui (co-capt), Sam Slade, Theo McFarland, Brian Alainu’uese, Charlie Faumuina, Paul Alo-Emile, Michael Alaalatoa (co-capt), Jordan Lay, Seilala Lam, Sama Malolo, Luteru Tolai.