England and Samoa will face off for the second time this World Cup on Sunday (AEDT), but there's much more at stake for the winner of the semi-final showdown than there was when the two sides met back in the opening fixture of the tournament last month.
On that day, it was England who ran riot against an injury-hit and out-of-form Samoa, emerging with a stunning 60-6 over the Pacific powerhouse in Newcastle.
Since then, Shaun Wane's side have staked their credentials as one of the teams to beat at the World Cup, brushing aside their group stage games before piling on the points against Papua New Guinea in their quarterfinal match-up.
Ahead of their semi-final, England have now won their last four games by an average margin of 52 points; the only time they’ve won more successive games at the World Cup was an eight-game streak from September 1975 to October 1995.
Much has changed for Samoa, however, since their sluggish start to the tournament, with Matt Parish's side bouncing back to form against France and Greece before holding on for a thrilling two-point win over Tonga in the quarterfinal.
Having won their last three Test matches, Samoa head into their semi-final on their joint longest winning run since a 15-game streak from October 1990 to November 1994, and will certainly fancy their chances at springing at upset on the day.
England: 1 Sam Tomkins, 2 Tommy Makinson, 3 Kallum Watkins, 4 Herbie Farnworth, 6 Jack Welsby, 7 George Williams, 8 Tom Burgess, 9 Micky McIlorum, 10 Luke Thompson, 11 Elliott Whitehead, 12 John Bateman, 13 Victor Radley, 14 Dom Young, 15 Morgan Knowles, 17 Mike Cooper, 18 Chris Hill, 20 Mike McMeeken, 21 Marc Sneyd, 24 Kai Pearce-Paul
Samoa (alphabetical): 21 Fa’amanu Brown, 4 Stephen Crichton, 20 Chanel Harris-Tavita, 15 Royce Hunt, 23 Oregon Kaufusi, 25 Tim Lafai, 16 Spencer Leniu , 6 Jarome Luai, 2 Taylan May, 7 Anthony Milford, 8 Josh Papali’i, 10 Junior Paulo (captain), 11 Ligi Sao, 26 Ken Sio, 12 Jaydn Su’a, 1 Joseph Sua’ali’i, 17 Martin Taupau, 5 Brian To’o, 22 Kelma Tuilagi
Match: England v Samoa
Semi Finals -
Fullback for England is number 1 Sam TomkinsFullback for Samoa is number 1 Joseph Suaali'i
Winger for England is number 2 Tommy MakinsonWinger for Samoa is number 2 Taylan May
Centre for England is number 3 Kallum WatkinsCentre for Samoa is number 4 Stephen Crichton
Centre for England is number 4 Herbie FarnworthCentre for Samoa is number 25 Tim Lafai
Winger for England is number 14 Dominic YoungWinger for Samoa is number 5 Brian To'o
Five-Eighth for England is number 6 Jack WelsbyFive-Eighth for Samoa is number 6 Jarome Luai
Halfback for England is number 7 George WilliamsHalfback for Samoa is number 7 Anthony Milford
Prop for England is number 8 Thomas BurgessProp for Samoa is number 10 Junior Paulo
Hooker for England is number 9 Michael McIlorumHooker for Samoa is number 21 Fa'amanu Brown
Prop for England is number 18 Chris HillProp for Samoa is number 15 Royce Hunt
2nd Row for England is number 11 Elliott Whitehead2nd Row for Samoa is number 11 Ligi Sao
2nd Row for England is number 12 John Bateman2nd Row for Samoa is number 12 Jaydn Su'a
Lock for England is number 13 Victor RadleyLock for Samoa is number 23 Oregon Kaufusi
Interchange for England is number 10 Luke ThompsonInterchange for Samoa is number 8 Josh Papali'i
Interchange for England is number 15 Morgan KnowlesInterchange for Samoa is number 16 Spencer Leniu
Interchange for England is number 17 Mike CooperInterchange for Samoa is number 20 Chanel Harris-Tavita
Interchange for England is number 20 Mike McMeekenInterchange for Samoa is number 22 Kelma Tuilagi
Replacement for England is number 24 Kai Pearce-PaulReplacement for Samoa is number 26 Ken Sio
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Darian Furner
- Senior Review Official: Adam Gee
George Williams v Jarome Luai
In a tournament dominated by star playmakers, George Williams and Jarome Luai have been pivotal to their team's respective success, and are without doubt both in the running for selection in the team of the tournament. Williams (three tries, seven try assists and four other try-involvements) has been a part of more tries than any player in the tournament — Luai coming in second with two tries, six try assists and five other try-involvements. How the two playmakers go in not only steering their teams around but taking advantage of their opportunities in attack will go a long way to determining the outcome of Sunday's game. Williams and Luai have come up against each other on three previous occasions; Luai winning both NRL games in 2020 and 2021 while Williams triumphed in the Round 1 World Cup fixture.
England have enjoyed more possession than any other side during this World Cup, averaging 58 percent of the ball in their four games so far. From that they have completed at a higher rate on average (82.4 percent per game) than any of the tournament's remaining teams and become the tournament's equal-best attacking unit, with their 43 tries matched only by the Kangaroos.
No nation tests your first-up contact in defence more than Samoa. Averaging 52.5 average tackle breaks per game - with Panthers winger Brian To'o leading the charge with an average of 7.3 tackle per game - Samoa have been able to promote plenty of second-phase play, with their 59 offloads so far more than any other side at the World Cup.