Scotland v Samoa talking points

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Gregor Townsend takes charge of his first Scotland game on home soil when his side face Samoa at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.

Here, Press Association Sport examines five talking points ahead of the match.

Samoan rugby is on its knees

There was grave news for the pacific islanders during the week, after prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao declared Samoa rugby bankrupt.

The Rugby Football Union and Scottish Rugby Union – who will only cover travelling costs – will support the team in their Tests this autumn, but it remains to be seen how much the off-field issues will affect the players.

A typically vibrant and powerful display on Saturday would be a timely reminder of how important and popular sides such as Samoa are in the modern game.

Townsend seeks familiarity

A big feature in Scotland’s build-up has been about keeping a close-knit feel to the squad. Both Townsend and Dan McFarland have preached the importance of cohesion within the group and within certain partnerships, demonstrated by an all Glasgow back-line and an all-Edinburgh front row.

With such a short space of time to work with the squad, those relationships between the players could ease the transition into international rugby and help Scotland hit the ground running.

The Glasgow flair

British and Irish Lions Finn Russell is key to Scotland doing well against Samoa

British and Irish Lions Finn Russell is key to Scotland doing well against Samoa

It is hardly surprising that Townsend has opted to field a back-line made up solely of Glasgow players. Although Huw Jones is yet to play for the Warriors having just completed his move from Western Province, the rest of the backs have made a flying start to the Guinness PRO14 season and are enjoying the freedom encouraged by coach Dave Rennie.

Glasgow have scored 31 tries already this domestic campaign and are happy to run from deep. Finn Russell is key to that and his return will be crucial to the team, as shown by their defeat against Fiji after the fly-half had left the tour.

Who will win the physical battle?

Although Glasgow have been breathtaking at times in the PRO14, their successive losses in the European Champions Cup did expose weaknesses in their game.

There is perhaps no surprise that Townsend has responded by naming a front three entirely made up of Edinburgh players amid talk that Samoa could target the Dark Blues up front with their powerful carriers. However, the pacific islanders have themselves named two debutants in the tight five.

The start of a new era?

Though it officially started in the summer, Saturday’s meeting with Samoa feels like the dawn of Townsend’s spell in charge of Scotland. There were promising results in the summer with wins over Australia and Italy without the likes of Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour.

But fans will now get to see a Townsend side up close for the first time. Vern Cotter signed off with an improved Six Nations showing, and there will be confidence that this group of players can develop into an exciting team in the coming years.

British and Irish Lions Finn Russell is key to Scotland doing well against Samoa

British and Irish Lions Finn Russell is key to Scotland doing well against Samoa

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