Scotland can follow South Africa and seal their place ahead of Pool B rivals Japan in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup with a win over an underperforming Samoa team in Newcastle.
Where to watch
Samoa vs Scotland kicks off at 2:30pm BST on Saturday 10 October. Live coverage is available on ITV HD and BBC Radio Five Live.
After losing out at the pool stage to England and Argentina last time, Scotland are now just a solitary victory away from going one better than the hosts and progressing through to the last eight of the competition for the first time since 2007. Comfortable victories over the United States and Japan have underlined their potential, although head coach Vern Cotter was criticised by some following his decision to make changes for the 34-16 defeat to table-toppers South Africa last weekend.
Although his team gave a good account of themselves and scored an exhilarating try when stand-in fly-half Duncan Weir intercepted a rogue pass from Handre Pollard before running almost the entire length of the field and eventually helping to tee up Tommy Seymour, they struggled to deal with the Springboks' immense physicality and brute force that was characterised by their unstoppable rolling maul. Scotland were backed by a strong crowd at nearby St James' Park, however, and a repeat of that support could prove pivotal as they take on Samoa at the same venue.
A huge boost for Cotter comes in the return of Finn Russell. The Glasgow Warriors playmaker missed the match against South Africa with an ankle problem but returns at 10 on Saturday in place of Weir. Also back in the starting XV following injury are John Hardie and Sean Maitland, with Blair Cowan and Tim Visser making way. Two alterations in the front row see Alasdair Dickinson and hooker Mike Ford preferred to Gordon Reid and Fraser Brown, while Mark Bennett is in for Richie Vernon at outside centre. Ryan Wilson is selected at blindside flanker ahead of Josh Strauss and Stuart Hogg and Matt Scott have both been passed fit.
Samoa have failed to impress at this World Cup and will be playing for pride only given that they are now unlikely to even finish third, unless Japan are soundly beaten by the USA in their final contest. After kicking things off with an unconvincing victory over the Americans, the Pacific Islanders bore the considerable brunt of a wounded Springbok outfit in their next match and suffered from a disappointing lack of discipline in a dismal 26-5 loss to the Brave Blossoms in Milton Keynes as Faifili Levave, Sakaria Taulafo and Filo Paulo all spent time in the sin bin.
Experienced wing Alesana Tuilagi will be unavailable for club (Newcastle) and country over the next five weeks after being cited and controversially suspended for kneeing Harumichi Tatekawa as the Japanese centre prepared to make a tackle. Although he insisted the contact was accidental and merely a result of his running style, judicial officer Antony Davies did not agree and Tuilagi has now been replaced by Fa'atoina Autagavaia. Elsewhere in the back division, Paul Perez is switched to the wing as Rey Lee-Lo and George Pisi start together in midfield for the first time. Ken Pisi and Johnny Leota drop out, Levave is replaced at number eight by Alafoti Faosiliva and flankers TJ Ioane and Ofisa Treviranus are replaced by Maurie Faasavalu and Jack Lam.
Ma'atulimanu Leiataua is in for Ole Avei at hooker and Kahn Fotuali'i takes on the captain's armband. Samoa have emerged victorious just once from their nine previous fixtures against Scotland, although that victory came in their last meeting in Durban two years ago courtesy of tries from Tuilagi (two) and James So'oialo.
Samoa: 15. Nanai-Williams, 14. Perez, 13. G Pisi, 12. Lee-Lo, 11. Autagavaia, 10. T. Pisi, 9. Fotuali'i (c); 1. Taulafo, 2. Leiataua, 3. Johnston, 4. Paulo, 5. Thompson, 6. Faasavalu, 7. Lam, 8. Faosiliva
Replacements: 16. Matu'u, 17. Afatia, 18. Perenise, 19. Levave, 20. V Tuilagi, 21. Afemai, 22. Faapale, 23. K Pisi
Scotland: 15. Hogg, 14. Maitland, 13. Bennett, 12. Scott, 11. Seymour, 10. Russell, 9. Laidlaw (c); 1. Dickinson, 2. Ford, 3. Nel, 4. R Gray, 5. J Gray, 6. Wilson, 7. Hardie, 8. Denton
Replacements: 16. Brown, 17. Reid, 18. Welsh, 19. Swinson, 20. Strauss, 21. Pyrgos, 22. Horne, 23. Lamont
What the coaches say
Stephen Betham: "The boys know we've got a talent but we haven't shown it. We haven't shown anything all tournament, and it's important for us not just to play for the people back home but ourselves. To prove to ourselves that we can get that talent out there. We don't train to go out there to hurt people. We go out there to play tough rugby and hard rugby. It's unfortunate that's the way we are seen."
Vern Cotter: "Every Test match is a 'must-win' when you represent your country. We've put in a huge amount of work to get us to this point, and our performances and commitment have put us in a position to qualify for the last eight. We'll need to be up to the challenge, enjoy the opportunity, and maintain the awareness needed to play to our strengths and impose our game."
Scotland's crunch clash with Samoa on 10 October is followed by the the Pool A decider between Australia and Wales at Twickenham as well as hosts England's final match of a woeful tournament against Uruguay in Manchester.