England shape up with Hape and hope


England 26 Samoa 13:HISTORY WILL prove this victory to be more impressive than it felt at the time. When, rather than if, Samoa upset more fancied opponents at next year’s World Cup, people will view this scoreline rather differently.

According to London Irish’s reliably excellent Seilala Mapusua, the ambition is to follow in Argentina’s studmarks and break into “the big boys’ club”.

“I don’t see why we can’t. I think we’ve made major strides over the last year,” he said. “It’s just a case of playing more games and getting combinations together. Hopefully, with the right resources and time, we could really be a strong force. We really want to compete with these tier-one nations.”

Not all sides, or referees, over the next 12 months will allow Martin Johnson’s men to exhibit the pace, freedom and breakdown efficiency they showed against Australia. This requires England to identify players who suit a more direct, close-quarters game should that be necessary. Hendre Fourie and Matt Banahan, from the Eastern Cape and Jersey respectively, may not be sportsmen from central casting, but must be close to booking seats on the plane to New Zealand.

Fourie will never accelerate like Tom Croft, the player England missed most until he reappeared as a 68th-minute replacement for James Haskell. Banahan, despite the nifty interception which preceded Croft’s first try for his country in 21 Tests, is unlikely to be mistaken for Jeremy Guscott.

Neither will start against South Africa, with Johnson odds on to revert to the starting XV which startled the Wallabies, but, as with Shontayne Hape, there are signs that time spent in the England camp is improving individuals.

Former Kiwi league player Hape created England’s first try for Banahan with a clever arcing run down the narrow side.

If there was slightly less to admire about the soft turnover try England conceded inside the first minute of the second half, Samoa’s second try by Fautua Otto and the preceding chip-and-gather skill of George Stowers also backed up Johnson’s point that the visitors are no one’s idea of a soft touch.

Guardian Service

ENGLAND: Foden; Ashton, Banahan, Hape, Cueto; Flood, Youngs; Sheridan, Hartley, Wilson, Lawes, Palmer, Haskell, Fourie, Easter. Replacements: Armitage for Ashton (75), Hodgson for Hape (75), Care for Youngs (68), Thompson for Hartley (56), Cole for Wilson (56), Attwood for Lawes (68), Croft for Haskell (68).

SAMOA: P Williams; Lemi, Pisi, Mapusua, A Tuilagi; Lavea, Fotualii; Taulafo, Schwalger, A. Perenise, A Perenise, Levi, Thompson, Treviranus, Salavea, Stowers. Replacements: Otto for Lemi (60), G. Williams for Pisi (76), Paulo for Schwalger (48), Johnston for A. Perenise (68), Johnston for A Perenise (68), Poluleuligaga for Levi (67), Tekori for Thompson (41), Aiono for Stowers (66).

Referee: P Fitzgibbon(Ireland).