THE message from an inspirational captain leading his team into battle on foreign soil could scarcely have been more straightforward.

''You have to get that win,'' he said, ahead of today's Scotland-Samoa Test match in Wellington. ''Get the team spirit and, hopefully, what we can do off the field we can bring on to the field.''

The battle cry was not, however, that of Scott Murray, Scotland's tour captain. It was issued by Semo Sititi, the Samoan who has had a season's toil in Scottish domestic rugby and whose national team, like Scotland, is just inside the world's top 10 and looking to improve.

While there has been much talk about performance in the Scotland camp, the words of Sititi, who has become a popular figure in the Borders over the past two seasons, reflect the reality of top-level competition, the only thing that really matters is the result.

The No.8, who made a massive impact during last year's World Cup when Samoa came close to surprising England during the pool stages, knows his side is on the cusp of a major breakthrough in global terms.

Scotland and Samoa are currently rated ninth and 10th in the world. Those positions vary according to the official IRB rankings, where Scotland are marginally ahead, and the unofficial but longer-standing Zurich rankings, which favour Samoa.

This match should clear up the issue for the foreseeable future, so to that end, Sititi would have preferred genuine home advantage. ''We are a bit disappointed that the game is not in Samoa for the Samoan people because they love their rugby, but I understand the situation and we can enjoy Wellington and help develop the rugby back home,'' he said, of the commercial realities that have affected the choice of venue.

However, Samoa, having beaten Wales and Ireland on their own terrain in the past, remain undeterred.

Without showing any disrespect to the nation where he made his living until moving to Newcastle recently, Sititi believes the Samoans can win. ''Scotland are one of the best teams in the world, there is no question about that,'' he said. ''But we as Samoan players have a belief in ourselves.

''If we perform well the result will come right, and it would be a big step for Samoan rugby if we can beat Scotland.''

Samoa's 24-14 win against Tonga in a typically brutal inter-island, South Seas battle last weekend got them up to Test pace. However, Michael Jones, the legendary All Black flanker who has just taken over as Samoa's coach, said: ''We have to raise our performance significantly from last Saturday. We see ourselves as underdogs, there's no doubt about that. We only came together for 10 days ahead of playing with guys coming in from all over the world, whereas Scotland have full-time professional players playing in superior competitions to our home-based players.''

Fortunately, Scotland have a posse of battle-hardened forwards who have heard all this before when Brad Johnstone, then coach of Samoa, set Scotland up for a spectacular fall on their 1998 tour as a humiliating 51-26 Test defeat rocked the tourists.

Murray, as well as Stuart Grimes, his long-standing second-row partner, and Gordon Bulloch were all relative international novices then. The hooker's try that night was

little consolation for the embarrassment. However, now they should be under no illusions. As for their own preparations, Scotland's midweek side did their part of the deal when they eventually looked like full-time professionals playing against amateurs in running in six tries to beat New South Wales Country on Wednesday.

Todd Blackadder, who shares with Sititi the distinction of being captain of another international side before contributing massively to Scottish rugby, said: ''During the Six Nations, there was no-one putting pressure on those guys, but now on tour there's pressure. The New Zealander who, after a six-month stint will stand down from coaching Scotland's forwards after this tour, said: ''That is healthy. I always felt when we toured with the All Blacks that if the midweek team performed, it meant the Test team could then perform.''

While the new management is trying to develop a total rugby approach, Blackadder remains a subscriber to the view that, at Test level at least, forwards win matches and backs decide by how many.

To that end, he admits to being as puzzled as everyone else that a pack which was setting up a reasonable share of victories until last year has been unable to do so in 2004.

''I don't think it's overly complicated but, for example, every time we get into the 22, notably against the Barbarians, we couldn't win a lineout,'' said Blackadder. ''We can win a lineout in any other position on the field, and the gameplan is simplistic. It's just things like an over-throw or someone missing a lift that are killing us.''

In short, that places the onus on the captain, rated one of the best lineout forwards on the planet, his partner Grimes and vice-captain Bulloch, who throws the ball in, to set the right tone.

Pursuit of excellence is all very well, but with nothing between these sides, it is all about the result. Samoa's captain knows that, the ex-All Black captain knows that, and Scotland's senior men have to make sure that all of their countrymen do, too, as they take the field at the Westpac Stadium today.