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 an upset on the day.