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Rested Argentina versus rushed Samoa in key Rugby World Cup pool match

Argentina is one of 12 fortunate teams at the Rugby World Cup to have a long break of 12-14 days between games at some point during the pool stage. Samoa is not one of them.
Argentina's head coach Michael Cheika watches his players warm-up before the Rugby World Cup Pool D match between England and Argentina in the Stade de Marseille, Marseille, France Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Argentina is one of 12 fortunate teams at the Rugby World Cup to have a long break of 12-14 days between games at some point during the pool stage.

Samoa is not one of them.

Manu Samoa and Los Pumas meet in a key Pool D clash on Friday in Saint-Etienne.

Argentina goes into it after a 13-day break — timely, considering all of the issues revealed in the dismal 27-10 defeat to England on the opening weekend.

Samoa, though, will operate on a six-day turnaround after beating Chile 43-10 last Saturday.

The tournament schedule was a lot more sympathetic to tier two teams than previous Rugby World Cups — when four- and five-day turnarounds were common — and the schedule was released more than 2 1/2 years ago, so Samoa has known what to expect. But that doesn't make it any easier to manage.

“We waited a couple of weeks to play our first game and then I felt like we blinked and we are straight into the second game,” Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua said.

The future doesn't get any easier for Samoa, either. There's another six-day turnaround to the next game against Japan. Then nine days for the last pool game against England, though a large chunk of one day will be eaten up by Samoa traveling from its Montpellier base in southern France to Lille in the far north.

But that's in the future.

With less than half of Argentina's rest time, Samoa has to win on Friday to take a big step toward a first quarterfinal since 1995.

ARGENTINA vs. SAMOA (Samoa leads 3-1 overall, 2-1 in RWC)

The Pumas are in a tight spot in just their second pool game. With all due respect to Japan, which is a shadow of the 2019 side, and debutant Chile, the pool's two quarterfinal spots are being fought for by England, the Pumas, and Samoa.

The Pumas can't afford to lose to Samoa as well.

“When the team plays well it is generally thanks to the scrumhalf and flyhalf,” said scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou, who will start in harness with Santiago Carreras again. "When it plays badly you have to raise your hand, and I take responsibility.

“We turned the page (after England) and we are very clear about what we have to do to hurt Samoa. I know how to put the team in a good position along with the game leaders. It gives me great peace of mind that on Friday we are very well prepared to put our forwards and our backs in a position to take advantage.”

Samoa has been bolstered by three France-based professionals in prop Paul Alo-Emile, lock Brian Alainu'u'ese and wing Ben Lam, the former New Zealand Sevens player who will make his test debut.

Their three previous wins against Argentina are more than Fiji and Tonga combined, but this is their first meeting in 18 years, when both teams were in tier two. Since then, Argentina has earned tier one status and reached the Rugby World Cup semifinals twice.

Fiji upended Australia last weekend and coach Mapusua said they can take inspiration.

“We are proud of (Fiji) and of course we are going to take inspiration and confidence from that,” Mapusua said. “But I'd be more inclined to take confidence from the work and preparation this group of men have done over the past few months.”

___ AP Rugby World Cup:

Foster Niumata, The Associated Press