TAUPO, 17 Sept. – Wales flanker Dan Lydiate is ready to play ugly if it means stopping Samoa inflicting on them a third Rugby World Cup defeat.
While Wales edge Samoa 4-3 overall, the Islanders dashed their hopes 16-13 at RWC 1991 and 38-31 in the 1999 tournament.
They meet again at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium on Sunday, with the losers likely to be sent packing once the pool games end later this month.
Wales will be looking to make amends for an agonising 17-16 defeat to South Africa, when they appeared to have an epic opening Pool D game in their keeping before being overrun at the end.
In Samoa, renowned for their physical style, the challenge will be no less daunting and the Islanders will be brimming with confidence after beating Tri Nations champions Australia in mid-July and opening their RWC campaign with a 49-12 thrashing of Namibia on Wednesday.
“We have been gaining in confidence from the summer Tests,” said the 23-year-old Lydiate after Wales announced their 22-man squad on Friday.
“We’re gutted about last week, but I just can’t emphasise enough how important it is that we get the win this weekend.
“We don’t mind if we play poorly, as long as we get the result. When you’re in the World Cup, that’s all you care about.”
Lydiate, who missed a year of rugby after breaking his neck in 2007, said Wales must stamp their authority from the start against Samoa.
“We were slow to start against South Africa and we can’t do that this week because if we let a try in early, they’ll have their tails up and it will be hard to break them,” added Lydiate, who practised his tackling skills on sheep while growing up on a farm.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has named an unchanged XV, with British Irish Lions prop Gethin Jenkins replacing Ryan Bevington on the bench.
“I think it’s the first time since 2006 that Wales have named an unchanged team,” Gatland said. “It’s a message of confidence in terms of the way we performed last week.”
Gatland resisted calls to shift James Hook from full back to fly half or centre after the Perpignan utility had a poor game in the No.15 jersey against the Springboks.
“We know what a quality player James is,” the coach said. “He’ll be a little bit disappointed with the way he played at full back and we expect him to play better this week.”
Samoa’s superior record in RWC matches between the countries holds no fears for young Wales skipper Sam Warburton, who said: “I don’t think the players have taken any notice of what’s happened in the past.”