Scotland v Samoa: Centre Chris Harris relishing midfield big hits if given the chance
Sunday’s match against Ireland was a particular slog for the Scotland forwards but Monday’s second pool clash against Samoa in Kobe is set to be an all-court physical ding-dong battle in which the backs will have to be braced to take their share of the collisions.
Many are tipping Chris Harris to replace Duncan Taylor, who looked a bit short of match sharpness after a graduated return through the summer following two injury-ravaged seasons.
Since his debut to forget in the hammering by Wales at the start of the 2018 Six Nations, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has stuck with the Carlisle-born former Newcastle Falcons centre, who will join Gloucester after the World Cup, and a couple of tries in 11 Tests have followed.
The 6ft 2in, 16 stone 28-year-old could well get the nod to partner Sam Johnson, whose try-saving tackles made him one of few Scottish players with pass marks in Yokohama, for a fierce midfield battle in Kobe.
“I’m looking forward to being involved if I’m involved,” was Harris’s enigmatic response. “I like getting stuck in, the physical side of the game. If I’m in the mix I’ll try and impose myself on the game. I won’t be reckless but will pick my opportunities to tackle or carry hard.”
It would be a huge game for Harris to be thrust into but the centre insists that the fact it is must-win doesn’t cause any trembles running through the players.
“We haven’t talked about a fear of defeat,” he said. “Obviously it’s a must win but we’re confident. We can use last week to put a bit of fire in our belly, but if you have fear in the game you’re going to go into your shell. There’s a confidence about the boys and we’re looking forward to getting stuck in.
“We sat and watched the Samoa-Russia game together. It was just a physical game wasn’t it? They got really fired into the Russians and I think the Russians to start with got fired into them back, but unfortunately didn’t last the whole game. We just need to be as physical as them, and some more, for the full 80 minutes.”
The Samoans are known to cross the line in their physical approach at times, with two of their players Ray Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u awaiting citing hearings for high tackles in that Russia game.
“I think there’s an element of passion for them but they’ve got 15 guys out there all wanting to get involved and make a hit,” said Harris.
“To be honest it can work for them and, sometimes, it’ll leave gaps for us to exploit. I’ve got in my head going into this game that I’m going probably going to get a big shot, but you can get over that, I’ll take a carry and get a big hit and it’ll leave space elsewhere, potentially.
“As a group that’s their game, if they didn’t do that, what would they do?”
Harris came off the bench in Yokohama with the game long gone and is hoping to have a more meaningful impact from the start. Playing in the English Premiership means he is familiar with Samoan players as team-mates and opponents.
“Tim Nanai-Williams is a handy player. And my mate from Newcastle, big Logga (Logovi'i Mulipola), he’s handy when he carries the ball. They’ve got world class individuals who can all hit hard, they’ve got an unbelievable offload game.
“That’s there game, we need to be ready for tat, which we are.”