BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) - Both Samoa and the United States have much to live up to when they open their Rugby World Cup campaign on Sunday as Brighton woke up still buzzing from the sensational Pool B start on Saturday.
Japan’s 34-32 win over South Africa in the opening group game is the tournament’s greatest ever upset and has the city in the firm grip of a rugby fever, displacing excitement over Brighton and Hove Albion sitting top of the English Championship soccer standings.
The intensity of that game in front of a near-sell out crowd, just short of 30000, will have gone a long way to making inroads for rugby on the south coast of England, leaving the Americans and Samoans under pressure to deliver similar drama to keep up the momentum.
It is only the second ever World Cup meeting between the two countries, with Samoa squeezing through 25-21 in St Etienne eight years ago, but they also won earlier this year in the Pacific Nations Cup by five points over the Americans in San Jose.
Samoa will field a much stronger team on Sunday as they set their sights on a quarter-final place, even though the expected permutations in Pool B have been dumped on their head by Japan’s heroics.
The Pacific Islanders have twice before reached the last eight at a World Cup and will have their sights set on making it three this year.
The U.S. have played in all but one World Cup but have just three victories in 21 previous clashes.
United States captain Chris Wyles promised “a huge amount of focus” from his team for the game at the Brighton Community Stadium.
”It was a close loss against Samoa in the last meeting. We know they’ve got a changed side, but we’ve also benefited from having quite a bit of time together now, which we don’t usually have, so it’s pretty exciting.
“We know they’re going to be very physical, and ultimately if we are able to bring physicality to it, a lot of others things will fall into place.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty