Tough and physical clash expected as Samoa tackle Tonga

Manu Samoa do their final run-through on Friday Photo: Iliesa Tora/RNZ Pacific

It will be another fiery and physical battle when Manu Samoa battles the ‘Ikale Tahi of Tonga at Apia Park, Samoa on Saturday afternoon.

With close to 15,000 fans expected, the two teams have stated it will be a Polynesian battle that will keep the crowd entertained.

“It will definitely be tough, fiery and physical, like every other Pacific rugby battle,” Seilala Mapusua, Samoa’s chief tactician told RNZ Pacific.

“We know Tonga will be tough, they love the physicality and it’s a Polynesian battle on top of that. Whenever Samoa plays Tonga, the world stands still for us.

“It’s another pre-World Cup game for us and we will go in to do what we have trained to do and hopefully we can come out on top in the end.”

His Tongan counterpart Toutai Kefu echoed Mapusua’s comments and added they just had to focus on their game plan.

“Definitely will be physical and they will be tough at home,” the former Wallaby No. 8 said.

“We have a team that we are building and as long as they stay with their game plan and do what they need to do they should be okay.”

Neither team can win the Pacific Nations Cup as Fiji are flying high at the top with 10 points, five more than Japan, but the two teams playing in Samoa this weekend are building for the World Cup which begins in October.

Prop leads for Samoa

Michael Alaalatoa gets to skipper the Samoans, replacing Fritz Lee, who had led the team in their two Tests so far.

He teams up with former All Black Charlie Faumuina upfront and their leadership will be critical for the side.

Alalatoa said the team were in peak condition for the Test.

“We’ve had a really good week of training and are really excited about what we can do against the Tongans.

“The Tongan games are one-off games. It doesn’t matter what the result was in the past, we can only expect the best from each other on the day.

“There will be a lot of collisions. They have firepower in the backs, we have got our work cut out for us, but we are looking forward to an exciting challenge.”

The Flying Fijians putting in some defense work against Manu Samoa at Apia Park on Saturday. 29 July 2023

The Flying Fijians putting in some defense work against Manu Samoa at Apia Park on Saturday. 29 July 2023 Photo: Piui Simi/Samoa Observer

Miracle Failangi, Jack Lam and Steven Luatua are tasked with defusing the Tongan attacks and leading counter-attacks from would-be turnovers.

Veteran Christian Leali’ifano has been moved to the bench for Alai D’angelo Leuila.

Manu Samoa team: 1.Charlie Faumuina, 2. Sama Malolo, 3. Michael Alaalatoa (captain), 4. Chris Vui, 5. Brian Alainu’u’ese, 6. Micacle Failangi, 7. Jack Lam, 8. Steven Luatua, 9. Jonathan Taumateine, 10. Alai D’angelo Leuila, 11. Ed Fidow, 12. Duncan Paia’aua, 13. Ulupano Junior Seuteni, 14. Nigel Ah Wong, 15. Tim Nanai-Williams; Reserves – 16. Luteru Tolai, 17. Titi Lamositele, 18. Paul Alo-Emile, 19. Theodore McFarland, 20. Frtiz Lee, 21. Melani Matavao, 22. Christian Leali’ifano, 23. Neria Foma’i.

Tested pack

The ‘Ikale Tahi have opted to retain a tested forward pack who had started against Fiji and Japan.

Former All Black Vaea Fifita will start at No. 8 again after having run as number six against Japan.

He will play a third test this year alongside brother and lock-forward Halaleva Fifita.

Coach Kefu said he expects nothing less from his team, who have had two losses on the trot.

“It has been a tough tour for us but we are learning along the way,” he said.

“Our focus is on the World Cup and trying out our combinations in these Test matches.

“It will be another tough one against Samoa but we are prepared.”

Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna pair up again upfront with Siua Maile.

Crusasders rep Sione Havili gets his second start, this time moving to No. 7, pushing Moana Pasifika captain Solomone Funaki to the bench again.

Veteran halfback Sonatane Talukula will get his 51st Test when he leads the team out at 3pm tomorrow.

‘Ikale Tahi lineup: 1. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 2. Siua Maile, 3. Ben Tameifuna, 4. Halaleva Fifita, 5. Sitiveni Mafi, 6. Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7. Sione Havili Talitui, 8. Vaea Fifita, 9. Sonatane Takulua (captain), 10. William Havili, 11. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12. Pita Ahki, 13. George Moala, 14. Solomone Kata, 15. Salesi Piutau; Reserves – 16. Paula Ngauamo, 17. Tau Koloamatangi, 18. David Lolohea, 19. Lopeti Timani, 20. Solomone Funaki, 21. Manu Paea, 22. Otumaka Hausia, 23. Malakai Fekitoa.

The 'Ikale Tahi perform the sipi tau during the Pacific Nations Cup.

Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

Fijians expect a tough Japan

Fijian rugby captain Waisea Nayacalevu says Japan will be efficient in the set pieces, an area the Flying Fijians will have to work hard on on Saturday night.

Being five points ahead of their rivals, Fiji just need to avoid a heavy defeat to claim the Pacific Nations Cup.

Nayacalevu, who was rested against Manu Samoa last weekend, gets the captaincy back as the Fijians look to build on their Pacific Nations Cup wins over Tonga and Samoa.

Japan, who narrowly lost to Manu Samoa three weekends ago but beat the ‘Ikale Tahi last week, would not be an easy beat for the visitors, Nayacalevu said.

“Japan will present a different challenge for us and they are very good at the set pieces and are very strong,” he said.

“But it will be a good test for us.”

Nayacalevu pairs Vilimone Botitu in midfield – the third combination head coach Simon Raiwalu has tested over the three Tests so far.

“He is a good player and I am excited to partner with him in midfield,” Nayacalevu said of Botitu.

Raiwalui said the team was relishing the challenge the Brave Blossoms would provide.

“We’re really looking forward to this part of our preparation, it’s the end of our first block (of games) so we understand how tough it’s going to be.

“We know Japan is a good team, plays a very high tempo game and are well organised so we are just looking forward to the challenge.”

He said the game would give him the opportunity to allow players to prove themselves before the Flying Fijians World Cup squad was announced.

Ten Fijian Drua players are in the team, with their captain Meli Derenalagi leading from the back of the scrum.

Derenalagi will team-up with flankers Lekima Tagitagivalu and Kitione Kamikamica as the loose trio.

Halfback Simione Kuruvoli gets his second start while the experienced Ben Volavola will get his chance to show himself at flyhalf, after the Drua’s Caleb Muntz started against both Tonga and Samoa.

Flying Fijians lineup:1. Eroni Mawi, 2.Sam Matavesi, 3. Luke Tagi, 4. Albert Tuisue, 5.Temo Mayanavanua, 6. Lekima Tagitagivalu, 7. Kitione Kamikamica, 8. Meli Derenalagi, 9. Simione Kuruvoli, 10. Ben Volavola, 11. Selestino Ravutaumada, 12. Vilimoni Botitu, 13, Waisea Nayacalevu (Captain), 14. Jiuta Wainiqolo, 15. Sireli Maqala; Reserves – 16. Tevita Ikanivere, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Mesake Doge, 19. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 20. Joseva Tamani, 21. Frank Lomani, 22. Teti Tela, 23. Ilaisa Droasese