Planet Rugby

Preview: Tonga v USA

16th November 2012 08:02

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Contained: Andrew Suniula

Tonga will arrive in Wales to face the USA on the back of a narrow defeat against Italy last weekend in Rome.

Fly-half Fangatapu 'Apikotoa was on form with the boot and two tries from prop Sona Taumalolo and winger Fetu'u Vainikolo kept Tonga in the match right until the death, giving the Azzurri a late scare and highlighting the talent available in the Tongan squad.

Saturday's loss was followed up with another disappointing defeat, this time to a much-rotated side at the hands of Newcastle on Tuesday night, although they rounded off a 24-13 defeat with a wonderful backline score from Will Helu, an indication of the flair the Islanders possess.

The starters are all set to return against the USA this weekend, and a quick browse through the names available in their side highlights the talent available.

Up front they have a triumvirate of quality props in Taumalolo, Soane Tonga'uhia and Halani Aulika - great operators who can dictate a fixture through their technique and power.

The talent doesn't stop though with the front three. Leicester's Steve Mafi is an ever-present force at blindside flanker, Viliami Ma'afu a bulldozer at number eight. Captain Taniela Moa is an immediate stand-out at scrum-half and his control will be essential to a Tongan victory. In the back three, Connacht's Vainikolo and full-back Vungakoto Lilo offer a serious try-scoring threat.

As for the USA, they went into last week's clash against Russia as favourites given their recent victory in the Rugby World Cup and produced some thrilling rugby, running in six tries including two for Leeds scrum-half Robbie Shaw.

Shaw's excellent distribution and control from the number nine shirt resulted in an excellent attacking performance, creating multiple opportunities and at one point stretching the lead to 33-9. Some sloppy defence let Russia back into the match towards the end but the damage was done, with the Eagles impressing.

Packed with international experience in Paul Emerick, captain Todd Clever and Shawn Pittman, the USA have a talented enough squad to trouble Tonga. Losing Chris Wyles however is a blow, given that the Saracen kicked five conversion and scored a try of his own last weekend. The key will come down to their organisation at the set-piece and in defence.

Tonga will be a significant step up and the USA have not recorded a victory over the islanders since their inaugural clash in 1999.

When both sides met last year at Esher, Tonga ran out 44-13 winners. After their strong showing last week in Italy, they will go into this match as narrow favourites.

Prediction: Tonga by 5

Tonga: tbc

USA: 15 Zachary Pangelinan, 14 Cornelius Dirksen, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Luke Hume, 10 Toby L'Estrange, 9 Robbie Shaw, 8 Todd Clever (capt), 7 John Quill, 6 Scott LaValla, 5 Louis Stanfill, 4 Brian Doyle, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Chris Biller, 1 Shawn Pittman.
Replacements: 16 Derek Asbun, 17 Nick Wallace, 18 Zachary Fenoglio, 19 Inaki Basauri, 20 Peter Dahl, 21 Mike Petri, 22 Rolan Suniula, 23 Gearoid McDonald.

Date: Saturday, November 17
Kick-off: 18:00Venue: Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, Wales
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Tim Hayes (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)

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