One win, one loss. It’s not a ratio any team relishes with two Rugby World Cup pool games to play. But that’s where Japan and Samoa find themselves coming into their head-to-head clash in Toulouse, France, on Thursday.
Neither side needs to stress over the calculus; the equation is pretty simple. Win this game and keep your World Cup dreams alive. Lose, and it’s back to the drawing board for the next four years. After the 80 minutes elapse, one proud rugby nation will be staring down the barrel of a gun. The other will have its finger on the trigger.
Were the stakes not as high, this would still be billed as a potential thriller. When the two teams met in the Pacific Nations Cup in July, Samoa edged out a 24-22 victory. Japan won the previous three encounters, including a 38-19 triumph in the city of Toyota at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Samoa won the three before that.