Argentina's Felipe Contepomi highlights lack of opportunities as key barrier for Samoa's rugby success

Samoan players perform the Siva Tau prior to their Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Chile

Samoan players perform the Siva Tau prior to their Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Chile. Photo: Romain Perrocheau/AFP

Published Sep 21, 2023


Argentina's backs coach Felipe Contepomi admitted on Thursday that Rugby World Cup opponents Samoa have been held back by a lack of opportunities as a Tier II nation.

Although the South Americans are a Tier I nation — and favourites for Friday's Pool D encounter in Saint Etienne — they actually have a losing record against Samoa, having won only one of four previous clashes.

The Pumas' only victory over the Pacific Islanders came at the 1999 World Cup pool stage, since when the Argentines have never looked back.

That was the first time they reached the knock-out stages at a World Cup and since then, regular matches against top tier opponents helped them secure a historic third pace finish at the 2007 World Cup in France.

They were then invited to rugby's top table when they joined the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship in 2012.

Samoa, by contrast, are still feeding off scraps.

They played only 12 matches between the last World Cup in 2019 and this one, half of which were against fellow Pacific Islanders Fiji and Tonga.

Most Tier 1 nations play at least 12 matches a season.

Whereas the two sides were at a similar level in the 1990s and even the 2000s, their rugby paths since have been very different.

"Argentina since 1999, or at least from 2007 ... we have had the luck to be able to play every year against Tier 1 teams and enter in an annual competition against teams from the top level of world rugby, like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa," said Contepomi.

"Samoa have had certain competitions but they haven't had the same competition as us.

"And in this, I can tell you that the possibilities that one had and the other had, were not the same."

Even so, he expects a fierce challenge on Friday.

"I have no doubt that the Samoa team we'll face is very well coached and has very good players, almost all playing in Europe and first choice in their clubs, stars in their clubs."

Samoa opened their Pool C account with a dominant 43-10 win over outsiders Chile, while Argentina were hugely disappointing in a 27-10 loss to an England side reduced to 14 men in the third minute.

Contepomi said the Pumas have quickly banished that match from their memories.

"The truth is that we prepared really well, also for England, but we didn't manage to produce it on the pitch," he said.

"We're taking it as a different match, starting from zero again.

"We have faith in all the work we've done before the World Cup and over these last 12 days since England. We're confident in our work."