Afternoon, folks. A couple of days ago I watching the film Wild Card, starring Jason Statham and George Costanza (no, really), and for which spoilers appear in the following preamble. At one stage in the film, our recovering gambling addict Statham has won over $500,000 in one night at Blackjack. All he has to do is cash out and he can make like Nicholas Cage and leave Las Vegas for Corsica, escaping the bloke out of Heroes who has contracted Stanley Tucci to murder him. Statham heads to the counter or whatever it’s called to claim his money: it’s really straightforward. You had one job, Jason!
Scotland have one job tonight. Beat a Samoan side who have been, by and large, thoroughly disappointing, can’t qualify themselves and who have lost one of their star players to the most ludicrous five-week ban you’ll see this tournament. Do that and they can make like South Africa and leave Pool B – albeit as runners up – for the promised land of a quarter-final against Wales or Australia.
Jason Statham suffers a panic attack and returns to the blackjack table. In one ill-fated move, he loses everything. $525,000 flushed down the toilet and his dreams become a shattered visage. There’s to be no escape for him. Instead, as he leaves the casino he is ambushed by heavies and gets punched in the face a lot.
Scotland are the better side and should win at St. James’ Park this afternoon. But there is that trepidation among their fans, that sense that they could panic and blow it all and, let’s be honest, few would be enormously surprised if they contrived to beat themselves tonight. Do that, and there’s every chance they will be ambushed by Japan, who are favourites to beat the USA tomorrow.
Kick-off for this one is at 2.30pm BST. That’s 3.30am in Apia. Your teams are as follows.
Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (London Irish), Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors). Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester, captain); Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), WP Nel (Edinburgh), R Gray (Castres), J Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors), John Hardie (unattached), David Denton (Edinburgh).
Replacements: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors).
Tim Nanai-Williams (Ricoh Black Rams), Paul Perez (Coastal Sharks), George Pisi (Northampton Saints), Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues), Fa’atoina Autagavaia (Nevers), Tusi Pisi (Suntory Sungoliath), Kahn Fotuali’i (Northampton Saints, captain); Sakaria Taulafo (Stade Francais), Ma’atulimanu Leiataua (Aurillac), Census Johnston (Toulouse), Teofilo Paulo (Benetton Treviso), Kane Thompson (Newcastle Falcons), Maurie Faasavalu (Bath), Jack Lam (Bristol), Alafoti Faosiliva (Bath).
Replacements: Motu Matu’u (Wellington Hurricanes), Viliamu Afatia (Agen), Anthony Perenise (Bristol), Faifili Levave (Wellington Lions), Vavae Tuilagi (Carcassonne), Vavao Afemai (Manu 7s), Patrick Faapale (Manu 7s), Ken Pisi (Northampton Saints).