Samoa tested by injury, disciplinary issues at RWC

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              Samoa's Alapati Leiua runs past Russia's Vasily Artemyev to score a try during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game between Russia and Samoa at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Kumagaya City, Japan, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Samoa defeated Russia 34-9. (AP Photo/Jae Hong)
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KOBE, Japan (AP) — Samoa could lose four front-line players for the game against Scotland at the Rugby World Cup, the first of three tough tests remaining in its pool.

No. 8 Afaesetiti Amosa is out of the tournament with a right knee ligament injury to pile more problems on a team which has other injury concerns and two players facing bans for dangerous high tackles.

Samoa assistant coach Alistair Rogers said Amosa ruptured a ligament in the process of scoring a try in the 34-9 win over Russia on Tuesday. He left the field on a stretcher in Kumagaya.

“He’s got a complete rupture of his MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his knee,” Rogers said. “He caught his foot in the ground and twisted his right knee in the tackle.”

Amosa traveled with the squad to Kobe on Wednesday, reportedly moving around in a wheelchair, and is expected to leave Japan soon.

He’ll be replaced in the squad by Alamanda Motuga, who was called up on Thursday and is expected to arrive on Friday. Samoa plays Scotland in Kobe on Monday night.

Motuga, more a flanker than a No. 8, is an experienced sevens player for Samoa but has just one test cap in 15s.

Samoa could also have captain and back-rower Jack Lam back from injury for the Scotland game to fill the hole left by Amosa.

Samoa has injury additional concerns for hooker Motu Matu’u and scrumhalf Dwayne Polataivao, who both have symptoms of concussion. And Matu’u and center Rey Lee-Lo have been cited for dangerous tackles versus Russia and face disciplinary hearings and possible bans.

Samoa still has its hardest games to come, against Scotland and then host Japan and No. 2-ranked Ireland.

With Amosa confirmed out, Polataivao is a doubt for the Scotland game and Matu’u and Lee-Lo, who was also a try-scorer against Russia, could be suspended for the rest of the pool stage depending on how seriously disciplinary officials view their infractions.

Australia wing Reece Hodge was suspended for three games and misses the rest of the pool stage for his dangerous high tackle on Fiji’s Peceli Yato.

Matu’u and Lee-Lo were both yellow-carded for their shoulder-led hits to the head of Russia captain Vasily Artemyev within two minutes of each other. They could have been red cards but Artemyev ducked into the tackles both times.

“You can’t really stop the boys hitting hard,” Samoa center Henry Taefu said. “It’s in our nature.”

Maybe, but Samoa must be aware that World Rugby is clamping down on dangerous tackles, especially at its marquee event.

Samoa winger Ed Fidow also received a citing commissioner warning after the Russia game for punching. Fidow scored two of Samoa’s six tries against Russia.