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Preview: Fiji v Tonga

22nd June 2012 11:49

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France v Tonga Kurt Morath

Top scorer: Kurt Morath

Fiji will be looking to bounce back from consecutive losses to Samoa and Scotland in Saturday's final Pacific Nations Cup clash against Tonga at Churchill Park.

The old rivals will be playing for pride after Samoa clinched the PNC title in Tokyo last weekend.

Fiji were in the hunt until the last 15 minutes against Scotland and will be looking to build on that solid performance and add to their win over Japan in their opening game.

Although the Pacific Nations Cup title has already been won by Samoa, there's plenty to play for. A win for Tonga could see them wrestle Scotland's tenth place in the IRB rankings from them if they lose against Samoa.

Both sides have elected to field inexperienced teams for this clash. Ten of the Fiji first XV have less than ten caps while nine players in Tonga's starting line-up have less than ten caps.

Tonga have 142 caps between them in total compared to Fiji's 125.

This will be the 85th meeting between Tonga and Fiji in all competitions. Fiji have been the dominant side for the majority of the time, winning 55 of those 84 matches while Tonga have won 26. There have been three draws.

The two sides last met in August last year for the 2011 Men's Internationals Series in Lautoka, with Tonga winning 32-20.

Fiji is in winter, it is a cool 24 degrees and the fields are in great condition for running Island rugby. Both teams will be keen to play their natural games and for the viewers this will unfold as a classic explosion of talent.

Saturday's clash between Tonga and Fiji is the 7th time these countries have met in the Pacific Nations Cup. Fiji's historical superiority has been turned on its head in the competition, with Tonga have been victorious on 4 of those occasions and Fiji just twice.

The last five PNC games have ebbed and flowed with Tonga winning three and Fiji the other two. Tonga were the most recent winners between the two sides, beating Fiji 45-21 last year.

Fiji flanker Apakuki Waisavu Wuaviritaki and winger Maileli Mocetadra will make their debuts for their country if they come off the bench against Tonga.

Kurt Morath (27 points) needs nine more points to overtake Japan's Ayumu Goromaru (35 points) and finish top scorer in the 2012 Pacific Nations Cup. Morathbecame the competition's highest scorer earlier in the month and currently has 122 points.

Alaska Taufa's yellow card in the game against Samoa earlier this month was Tonga's 19th yellow card in the history of the competition. It means they have earned almost double the yellow cards as their nearest rival (Fiji with 10) for the unsavoury award.

The teams:

Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Isimeli Koniferedi, 13 Wereniki Goneva, 12 Isake Katonibau, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Jonetai Ralulu, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Kelepi Ketedromo, 7 Malakai Volau, 6 Josefa Domolailai, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisai Naikatini, 3 Setefano Somoca, 2 Seremaia Naureure, 1 Graham Dewes.
Replacements: 16 Tuatpati Talemaitoga, 17 Jeremaia Yanuyanutawa, 18 Iliese Ratuva, 19 Apakuki Vuaviri, 20 Kelemedi Bola, 21 Benedito Koroi, 22 Maikeli Mocetadra.

Tonga: 15 Viliame Iongi, 14 Siale Piutau, 13 Mafileo Kefu, 12 Alipate Fatafehi, 11 Alaska Taufa, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Taniela Moa (c), 8 Paula Kaho, 7 Sione Vaiomounga, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Joe Tuineau, 4 Josh Afu, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Ilaisia Maasi, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Viliami Pola, 17 Sila Puafisi, 18 Lua Lokotui, 19 Vili Fainga'a, 20 Thomas Palu, 21 Sefa Vaka, 22 Edmond Paea.

Date: Saturday, June 23
Venue: Churchill Park
Kick-off: 15.30 (03.30 GMT)
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

With thanks to the IRB

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PosTeamPPts
1New Zealand420
2France411
3Tonga49
4Canada46
5Japan42