The USA defence will need to contain Samoa fullback Tim Nanai-Williams in Sunday's World Cup encounter in Brighton, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Samoa have a perfect record against the USA with four wins, although none of them were by more than seven points.
Having last met in a Pacific Nations Cup cross-pool game in California earlier this year, the Islanders controlled the first half to lead 21-3. The hosts, however, showed great determination in the second stanza to get within five points of victory while also keeping Samoa scoreless.
But in Nanai-Williams, Samoa have a different attacking weapon to customary, well-framed backline players. He made his Test debut against the All Blacks in July this year, but was well watched by the world champions then.
In this match the 26-year-old can prove he belongs on the international stage and a few of his trademark counter-attacking runs could well be on the cards. He is one of the most influential players in Super Rugby and it's a trait that will stand Samoa in good stead.
The Americans must close him down if they want to stay competitive for the full 80 minutes on Sunday and will look to No 8 Samu Manoa to lead their defensive line. In wing Takudzwa Ngwenya, who scored that wonderful try against the Springboks at the 2007 tournament, the USA have their own attacking ace. But their pack will have to work in unison to set a platform for the backs to shine.
Drafted in a pool where the Springboks are the only realistic title contenders, Samoa will aim for a convincing performance to improve their chances of reaching the quarter-finals.
Samoa coach Stephen Betham has selected Nanai-Williams in a potent back three with Ken Pisi and Alesana Tuilagi, while openside flanker Jack Lam leads the side from up front.
The USA also had two surprises in their lineup, with coach Mike Tokin calling on the expertise of European-based trio Blaine Scully (Cardiff Blues fullback), captain Chris Wyles (Saracens wing) and Manoa (Toulon loose forward).
NANAI-WILLIAMS'S STATS THAT MATTER
1 – Tests caps
2 – Test points
2 – Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Samoa 4, USA 0
Samoa – 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (c), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Maurie Fa’asavalu, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Subs: 16 Viliami Afatia, 17 Motu Matu’u, 18 Census Johnston, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Vavao Afemai, 22 Mike Stanley, 23 Fa’atoina Autagavaia.
USA – 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Chris Wyles (c), 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Al McFarland, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Zach Fenoglio, 1 Eric Fry.
Subs: 16 Phil Thiel, 17 Oli Kilifi, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Cam Dolan, 20 Danny Barrett, 21 Shalom Suniula, 22 Folau Niua, 23 Brett Thompson.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images