CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Reeling after an inept display against Argentina, the last thing under-fire Wales needed was a test match against a second-tier team which has proved to be a bogey side for the current champions of Europe.
Samoa has stunned the Welsh twice in Cardiff — in 1991 and '99 — and lost only 17-13 when the sides last met at the Millennium Stadium in 2009.
If the Pacific Islanders cause another upset in the capital on Friday, Wales will be staring at a five-match losing run with autumn internationals still to come against New Zealand and Australia.
However, Samoa is counting on the hosts upping their performance levels after a lackluster 26-12 loss to Argentina on Saturday.
"Wales will be smarting over that and making sure they get things right," Samoa assistant coach Darryl Suasua said. "They made a heck of a lot of errors last week but are a top-tier nation and we don't believe they will play like that again."
Reaching the semifinals of the 2011 World Cup — beating Samoa 17-10 en route — and winning the Six Nations at the start of this year are dim and distant memories for the Welsh.
Riven by financial strife at club level and with its best players leaving the domestic game to move to the cash-rich French Top 14, Welsh rugby is in turmoil and the problems of the national team aren't helping matters.
It's even got to the stage where the form of Sam Warburton, Wales' standout player in the World Cup and the player widely tipped to lead the British and Irish Lions in Australia next year, has dipped so dramatically that he has been dropped.
Justin Tipuric comes in for Warburton as one of eight changes to the starting XV from the Argentina match, against whom the Welsh were strangely subdued and rudderless behind the scrum.
"We are just looking forward to getting back on the field and proving the doubters wrong," Wales winger Alex Cuthbert said. "People have high expectations of us, just like we have high expectations.
"We let ourselves down (against Argentina). It was one of those days when nothing went to plan."
Known for the ferocity of its tackling, Samoa could yet give the Welsh more injury headaches before their matches with the southern hemisphere big guns.
Rob Howley, filling in as coach while Warren Gatland performs temporary British Lions duties, saw lock Alun-Wyn Jones ruled out for up to 16 weeks with a shoulder injury, leaving him in jeopardy of missing part of the Six Nations.
Wales is also without key players Matthew Rees, Adam Jones and Dan Lydiate but strapping center Jamie Roberts is available despite going off with a minor concussion against Argentina.
Flanker Ryan Jones will captain Wales for a record 29th time.
Samoa warmed up for the match by thrashing Canada 42-12 in Colwyn Bay, Wales, last Friday, but Robert Lilomaiava, who scored four tries in that game, has been relegated to the bench.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Ashley Beck, Jamie Roberts, George North, Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Ryan Jones (captain), Ian Evans, Bradley Davies, Aaron Jarvis, Richard Hibbard, Paul James. Reserves: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Luke Charteris, Sam Warburton, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams
Samoa: Faatoina Autagavaia, Paul Perez, George Pisi, Paul Williams, David Lemi (captain), Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali'i; Taiasina Tuifua, Maurie Fa'asavalu, Ofisa Treviranus, Filo Paulo, Daniel Leo, Census Johnston, Ole Avei, Sakaria Taulafo. Reserves: Tii Paulo, Viliamu Afatia, James Johnston, Tivaini Fomai, Jeremy Su'a, Jonny Leota, Robert Lilomaiava.