One of the enduring criticisms of the November Tests is that they are essentially friendlies with only pride at stake. That’s not true at BT Murrayfield today where Samoa have a huge amount to play for, even if their opponents don’t.

The issue for the Islanders is that they have a new coaching team in charge that has revamped the playing side top to bottom and they have only this month’s three matches to get the group ready for make-or-break Rugby World Cup qualification games that could seen them back in Scotland’s pool in 2019.

“It’s almost like a new start for this team,” reflected assistant coach John Schuster. “Just putting out a good performance, that is our aim for this week. We are hoping a good performance ends in the right result for us but so long as we put out a good performance, we are competing and we are seeing improvements.”

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The issue for Samoa reflects their fall from grace on the playing side alongside all the financial turmoil that has rocked them this week. When they played Scotland in the 2015 World Cup, they were the seeded side after reaching an all-time high of seventh in the world rankings. Since then they have slumped to 16th, a record low, and defeats by both Tonga and Fiji over the summer meant Samoa failed to capture either of the Oceania World Cup qualification spots. They now face the nightmare of a two-leg playoff next June against a European side yet to be determined.

They will go into that match against the third best side in Europe’s second tier as heavy favourites but there is far too much at stake for them to take anything for granted. It is not just the World Cup that is at risk but also all the grant money that comes with qualification.

For all that, the new playing and coaching teams have just 240 minutes of rugby against Scotland, Romania and England to hammer everything into shape before everybody heads in different directions for seven months before playing those vital games.

“We’ll be fielding a fairly inexperienced side and have new coaching staff; we are in a rebuilding phase with an emphasis on our qualifier in June,” Schuster added. “With everyone new on board, its important that we finish this tour knowing the players that we can field for that qualifier in June because that’s our biggest aim at the moment. It’s extremely difficult, it’s been very disruptive in terms of preparation but we do our best. Leading into Scotland we have had four sessions where we have had all our players on board. It’s very disruptive but it is what it is. We just have to deal with it and hope that we can put together the show we hope to put out.”

As far as the money troubles that have dominated the publicity this week go, Schuster, who played for his native Samoa 10 years after winning 10 caps for New Zealand, seems to have a resigned acceptance about the situation.

“It’s almost like becoming a norm for us to operate in those circumstances,” he shrugged. “It’s a concern if any union is in such a situation but its makes no difference to us. We’ve been trying as a group not to think too much about it. It’s part and parcel of our situation in Samoa but we’ve tried just to focus on what we are here for.”

After all, the games between Scotland and Samoa over the last decade have been nip-and-tuck affairs. They are favourites against Romania and heavy underdogs against England but Samoa believe the one against Scotland could go either way and a win would set them up nicely for the World Cup match next year that really matters. That is why today’s match is so important to them.