Sopoaga helps Manu Samoa to win as Fiji pushes France

Melani Matavao takes off against the Barbarians, in Brive, France Photo: Samoa Rugby Union

Lima Sopoaga made a strong debut for Manu Samoa, helping the side to a 28-14 win over the Barbarians in Brive, France at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Flying Fijians went down fighting 34-17 to France in Nantes on Sunday morning.

The matches were among several pre-Rugby World Cup warm up matches across Europe at the weekend.

Manu Samoa wins

Selected at flyhalf for Manu Samoa, ex-All Black Sopoaga showed glimpses of his old self, kicking two penalties and a conversion for a personal tally of seven points in the game.

He was not in the Manu Samoa squad for the July test series, the Pacific Nations Cup, but head coach Seilala Mapusua named him in the World Cup squad.

Sopoaga did not disappoint as he commanded the Samoans’ attacks and varied their options with place kicks and territorial searchers in the 60 minutes he was on the field.

Manu Samoa scored three tries to the Barbarians’ two, with Alamanda Motuga, Tumua Manu and replacement halfback Ereatara Enari getting on the try-scoring sheet.

Christian Leali’ifano, who replaced Sopoaga in the second spell, kicked a penalty.

Manu Samoa led 11-0 at halftime.

The Barbarians scored tries through captain Jean-Luc du Preez and winger Henry Speight.

The game featured five Samoans in the Barbarians’ outfit, four of them who were part of Mapusua’s squad leading up to the announcement of the Manu Samoa squad for the World Cup – Tim Nanai-Williams, Jack Lam, Aki Seiuli, Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen and Joe Tekori.

The side will now prepare to meet Ireland in their last pre-Rugby World Cup match next week.

Former New Zealand sevens rep Ben Lam, who also made his debut for Samoa, left the field with a suspected knee injury but was seen walking around later.

Mapusua said the match was a good test.

“In terms of the game this week against the Barbarians, it gave us an opportunity to have a closer look at our combinations and also test our game plan against an opposition,” he said.

He expects to name another full-strength lineup againt the Irish, who are the number one team in the world.

Fijians battle hard against French

In Nantes, it was the French who took the game to the Fijians early and led 9-0 early on.

France scored three tries to two, but the recent Pacific Nations Cup champions closed the scorelines to 16-10 in the first half and 24-17 in the second.

The Fijians turned up and fought hard, with the forward pack holding their own and winning the scrum battles as the game progressed.

Hooker Tevita Ikanivere and captain Semi Radradra were Fiji’s try-scorers while flyhalf Caleb Muntz added the extras from his boot, kicking two conversions and a penalty.

Viliame Mata in action against France

Viliame Mata in action against France Photo: Fiji Rugby Union

Fijian captain Radradra said they learned a lot from the game.

“It was physical like we anticipated. We have learned a lot and we will go back and review and prepare for England,” he said.

Coach Simon Raiwalui said he was happy with what he saw from his players.

“It was a tough match and France pressured us early but [there’s] a lot of positives from the game,” he said.

“We will go back and work on what we need to work on. Certainly a lot more consistency in our finish.”

Fiji will now meet England in Twickenham next weekend for their last warm-up match.

In other pre-Rugby World Cup matches at the weekend Ireland defeated England 29-10 while South Africa thrashed Wales 52-16.

Georgia beat the United States 22-7 and Italy thrashed Romania 57-7.