Manu Samoa will return to the top 10 of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini for the first time in nearly eight years when they are officially updated at 12 noon on Monday (BST).
The Pacific Island nation last found themselves in that position on the eve of Rugby World Cup 2015 and have been down as low as 17th in the intervening years.
But Saturday’s 24-22 win over Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool D opponents Japan continued Seilala Mapusua’s honeymoon period as head coach which has produced seven wins and only one defeat.
Japan lost former captain and number eight Michael Leitch to a red card for a high tackle on So'otala Fa'aso'o with half an hour gone in Sapporo but Samoa struggled to capitalise.
The scores were tied at 10-10 at half-time and four second-half penalties from Seungshin Lee kept the Brave Blossoms in the game throughout despite Samoa outscoring them three tries to one.
Jonathan Taumateine and Tumua Manu crossed in the second half after Alamanda Motuga had struck just before half-time, while Christian Lealiifano’s three conversions and penalty on debut proved crucial to the final outcome.
With 1.43 points awarded to them for the narrow victory, Samoa will climb over Georgia and also claim 10th place off Japan who will fall to 12th, their lowest position since November 2016.
FIJI GET OFF TO WINNING START
Fiji also won at the weekend, defeating Tonga 36-20 at Churchill Park in Lautoka.
After being awarded a penalty try, Waisea Nayacalevu, Sam Matavesi and Josua Tuisova crossed the Tongan line before replacement scrum-half Peni Matawalu closed out the win.
Fiji will pick up half a rating point for the victory but that won’t be enough for them to improve on their current position of 13th.
Tonga, who will remain in 15th position, put in a much-improved performance compared to last year’s 36-0 defeat in the corresponding fixture.
Siua Maile, Halaleva Fifita and Kyren Taumoefolau scored the ‘Ikale Tahi’s tries.