RWC #5: Western Samoa stun the Arms Park and the world

Wales fall victim to Pacific Islanders in Cardiff in 1991 in the original World Cup upset

An emotional Phil Davies after Wales were beaten by Western Samoa at the Cardiff Arms Park. Photograph: Getty

An emotional Phil Davies after Wales were beaten by Western Samoa at the Cardiff Arms Park. Photograph: Getty

 

While Wales 38-34 defeat to Fiji which dumped them out of the 2007 World Cup constituted a shock,it wasn’t an earth shattering one.

The athleticism and physicality of the Pacific Island nations, who had improved significantly in the professional era, meant any top tier nation who weren’t quite at full tilt would always be vulnerable against them- and so it proved for Wales in Nantes.

In fact Wales have made a habit of losing to Pacific Island teams at the World Cup, but none of their defeats have reverberated quite like their 13-16 loss against Western Samoa at the old Cardiff Arms Park in 1991.

It is difficult to appreciate now what a truly staggering result this was at the time. A junior nation beating a top tier team on a stage like this was unheard of.

Wales simply underestimated Western Samoa ahead of their World Cup opener. To’o Vaega’s contentious score proved the difference, but there was no doubt the minnows deserved their victory.

At times the Arms Park pitch resembled a field hospital, with Welsh shirts strewn all over as they were blitzed by Western Samoa’s chest-high, rugby league style tackling. Phil May, Tony Clement and Richie Collins all had to leave the pitch after being snotted.

With victory over Australia improbable at the very best, the loss to Western Samoa left Wales on the brink of an early World Cup exit, but ultimately this was a small price to pay for the legacy this result carved out for smaller nations and the tournament as a whole.

A team outside of the IRB board had beaten one of its senior statesmen and the presence of minnow nations at the World Cup was instantly ratified - teams like Western Samoa weren’t just there to make up the numbers.

And, as everybody asked in the aftermath - if Western Samoa could do that to Wales, imagine what the whole of Samoa would have done?

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