Greig Laidlaw's boot will ensure Scotland beat Samoa at St James' Park on Saturday and progress to the quarter-finals. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Scotland have 10 log points from their three matches, two more than Japan, who are expected to beat the USA in their final pool fixture on Sunday. Laidlaw's side therefore know they must win against Samoa in order to progress to the play-offs.
They shouldn't have too many problems against a Samoan side that has disappointed at this World Cup, losing 46-6 to the Boks and 26-5 to Japan. They were also unconvincing in their 25-16 win against the USA.
Scotland, meanwhile, claimed comfortable wins against Japan (45-10) and the USA (39-16) before going down 34-16 to the Boks. However, coach Vern Cotter did not select his best possible side for that third clash, preferring to save some of his big guns for Samoa.
Cotter has made eight changes to his starting XV for this match, but the man who could determine the outcome, Laidlaw, remains in the No 9 jersey.
The Scotland captain has kicked well for goal throughout the tournament, scoring 34 points via eight conversions and six penalties.
Samoa conceded 19 penalties in their last outing against Japan, including 11 in their own half, and similar indiscipline on Saturday will be punished by Laidlaw's boot.
In a match that Scotland only need to win (a bonus point for four tries doesn't matter), you can expect Laidlaw to take the three points when they are on offer from the outset, and build a lead.
Samoa have never dealt well with scoreboard pressure, and this side simply isn't good enough to overturn a significant deficit.
These teams have met nine times in Test rugby, with Scotland winning seven matches. Samoa did win 27-17 in Durban, in their last encounter two years ago, but have regressed badly since then, while Scotland have improved under Cotter.
LAIDLAW'S STATS THAT MATTER
44 – Test caps
401 – Test points
3 – Matches played at this World Cup
34 – Points scored
HEAD TO HEAD
Scotland 7, Samoa 1, Draw 1
Samoa – 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Paul Perez, 13 George Pisi, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Fa’atoina Autagavaia, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i (c), 8 Alafoti Faosiliva, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Maurie Faasavalu, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ma’atulimanu Leiataua, 1 Sakari Taulafo.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Vavae Tuilagi, 21 Vavao Afemai, 22 Patrick Faapale, 23 Ken Pisi.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Lamont.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images