France v Samoa
Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan
Monday 8pm (France time)
Tuesday 6am (AEDT); 5am (AEST)
France and Samoa may have already qualified for the quarter-finals, but this is still a crucial game for both teams. New Zealand have wrapped up top spot in Group B after beating the winless Papua New Guinea, and this match will determine the runner-up for the group.
What's at stake? The winner here will take on relative lightweights Fiji in the sudden-death quarter-finals, the loser will have to face the might of England on their home turf.
Samoa have been the more convincing of the two sides so far in this World Cup, scoring 24 points against New Zealand in their first hit-out before thumping PNG 38-4. They scored seven tries in that game, with man-of-the-match Anthony Milford making a whopping 14 tackle breaks, providing five offloads and kicking five goals.
The French meanwhile were lucky to escape with a 9-8 win over Papua New Guinea – with the Kumuls missing what would have been a match-winning penalty goal in the dying moments – and were then flogged 48-0 by the Kiwis.
That match was played on French territory and they'll play at home here as well, but will it be enough to hold off the impressive Samoans?
Watch Out France: Samoa may been known for the raw power of their forward pack but they also boast a couple of the most dangerous backline stars at the World Cup in the form of Anthony Milford at fullback and Joey Leilua in the centres. Both players have made 17 tackle busts from two games and are sure to cause some headaches for the French defence, with Leilua a constant threat on the left edge and Milford popping up in attack when he likes from fullback. Will a France side that is low on NRL experience be able to handle two of the NRL's rising stars?
Watch Out Samoa: We identified five-eighth Thomas Bosc as the team's star at the start of the French campaign and he's rewarded our faith by scoring 89 per cent of his team's points so far in this campaign. Granted, his team has only scored nine points in two games, but Bosc's playmaking skills and willingness to take on the line from five-eighth still poses a genuine threat for Samoa. Bosc's Catalans Dragons teammate Morgan Escare is another player to watch, having scored 14 tries from the wing in the Super League this year. Escare lines up at fullback for the national side, from where he made three tackle breaks against the Kumuls and two offloads against the Kiwis.
Ket Match-Up: The halfbacks. Ben Roberts has the easier job here up against William Barthau, who has been recalled for France at the expense of Theo Fagas after Fagas wore the No.7 during France's capitulation against New Zealand. Barthau had a mixed game against Papua New Guinea – kicking the match-winning field-goal before conceding a penalty in front of his own posts that should have cost France the game. He'll need to conjure up some spark if the French are to exceed expectations here.
Roberts meanwhile simply needs to keep it simple behind a strong forward pack, and feed his wide men whenever possible. The rocks-and-diamonds playmaker scored a runaway try and set up another against PNG and if he's on his game the Samoans should get the job done.
Televised: 7mate – Live, Tuesday from 5.30am (NSW); 4.30am (Qld)
The Way We See It: France have hardly been convincing at this tournament while Samoa have impressed in both their games and should be the better team here. The Samoans have quality players all over the park and the French defence could struggle to contain the natural flair of Milford. Samoa by 16 points.
*Statistics: NRL Stats