Planet Rugby

Pacific Nations Cup wide open

12th July 2011 18:13

Share:

samoa haka tokyo 2011

Down to the wire: Samoa face Tonga

The race for the Pacific Nations Cup is set to go down to the wire on Wednesday as all four teams are still in contention for the title.

Tonga will open proceedings at Churchill Park in the Fijian city of Lautoka against Pacific neighbours Samoa before hosts Fiji take on Asian champions Japan.

All four teams have won once over the first two match days but Tonga lead with six points meaning that a bonus point win over Samoa would give Isitolo Maka's side a first ever PNC title in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup.

Tonga v Samoa

Tonga went down 28-27 to Japan last weekend but under new coach Isitolo Maka and his assistant, former Wallaby legend Toutai Kefu, the Friendly Islanders are eying their first ever PNC title with intent.

Under the new management team the Tongans have been working hard to devise a game plan to counter the Samoans.

"It will be hard and it is always hard to play Samoa," said Tonga skipper Samiu Vahafolau.

"They have tough forwards and fast backs. That is why we have to play to win the game."

Vahafolau is aware of Tonga's position on the points table and what is required to win the PNC, but insists that their first goal is to win the match.

"We are first looking at winning the game and if the bonus point comes, we will be happy with that. However, we need to improve a lot from the Japan game as we were too slow to react and that gave Japan a chance to outplay us," he added.

The match between the two heavyweights is likely to be tight and, after their second round reverse at the hands of Fiji, Samoa and coach Titimaea Tafua are gunning to put things right in defence of the trophy they won this time last year.

"Playing Tonga is always hard and we expecting nothing less than a physical battle," Tafua said.

"It is nothing new and we are used to it and we expect them to come out and play a very physical game and we will be ready for it."

Fiji v Japan

Any pressure on home coach Sam Domoni seems to have lifted as a result of their convincing win against Samoa.

For their final clash against Asian champions Japan, Domoni has made 14 changes with one positional switch. Ravai Fatiaki is the only survivor from the Samoa game but some notable recalls underline the strength in depth at his disposal.

Rugby World Cup 2007 stars Akapusi Qera, Sisa Koyamaibole, Ifereimi Rawaqa, Seremaia Bai and Seru Rabeni all return to the side to lift spirits both in and out of the camp.

"I don't see any pressure in it. I mean it's a very important game for all teams that are here," said Domoni.

"It's the application of the knowledge we have encountered through camping together and training together. That's the main thing that will matter and will be the difference on Wednesday after the game. So there is no pressure at all, we are just looking at it and how to handle the adversity."

Japan mentor John Kirwan has also made sweeping changes after his side's victory against Tonga, with eight replacements and a positional switch.

Fiji's nemesis of the past James Arlidge is amongst the players not playing but for Kirwan this is a Rugby World Cup build-up and winning the PNC is secondary.

"We are thinking about the World Cup and what players we will take and who can adapt and what their fitness levels are," Kirwan said.

"We are happy with the win against Tonga last weekend and look forward to meeting Fiji and finishing off with a fine performance. Fiji as usual will be tough and history is not on our side."

With thanks to the IRB

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs Toulon13:00
Scarlets vs Leicester19:45
Bath vs Toulouse15:15
Montpellier vs Glasgow17:15
Northampton vs Ospreys17:15
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale13:00
Castres vs Leinster15:15
Wasps vs Harlequins17:15
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 9217:15
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles19:45
Friday , October 24
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs London Irish18:30
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Newcastle19:30
Brive vs Zebre19:30
Edinburgh vs LOU Rugby19:45
Saturday , October 25
Bucuresti vs Stade FrancaisTBC
Rovigo vs Cardiff Blues14:00
Exeter vs Connacht15:00
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
Glasgow 37 - 10 BathGlasgow vs Bath Report
Leicester 25 - 18 UlsterLeicester vs Ulster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
LOU Rugby 28 - 18 London WelshLOU Rugby vs London Welsh Report
Zebre 24 - 33 Oyonnax
Cardiff Blues 37 - 14 Grenoble
Stade Francais 22 - 38 Newport Gwent D'gons
Bayonne 30 - 24 Exeter
Connacht 48 - 12 La Rochelle
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Lions 50 - 20 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Western Province 31 - 23 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 49 - 30 AucklandTaranaki vs Auckland Report
Manawatu 23 - 18 Southland
Tasman 26 - 6 CanterburyTasman vs Canterbury Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins 25 - 9 CastresHarlequins vs Castres Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Bordeaux-Begles 13 - 15 EdinburghBordeaux-Begles vs Edinburgh Report
Newcastle 43 - 19 Bucuresti
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615