Defending champions Fiji will use their final Pacific Nations Cup match with Samoa to try out new combinations ahead of the Rugby World Cup while Japan and USA will battle it out for the title in Suva.
World Cup hosts Japan followed up their 34-21 first round win over Fiji with an impressive 41-7 win over Tonga at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka and now travel to Suva to face a USA team that beat Samoa to back up their victory over Canada.
Despite the disappointment of not being in the hunt for another PNC title, Fiji head coach John McKee is looking to gain some World Cup positives out of what will be a very physical contest with Samoa. “For us in-terms of our preparation it’s good to be back in Fiji leading into a full week of training. Last week with the travel we didn’t have a lot of training time together;” said McKee referring to their trip to Japan.
“We also trying to implement new things in our game plan. This week we have a little bit of breathing space with an extra days of training. We will look at giving other players in the squad more opportunity and also build on our combinations towards the Rugby World Cup.
“We have the Samoa and Tonga game before playing Australia in the RWC so as per our selection we will be looking at combinations across the park.”
Samoa are still coming to terms with their last gasp loss to the USA 13-10, a match that saw Welsh referee Nigel Owens call back a Samoa try that should have been allowed to stand. “We know what a physical side they are. They probably felt a little bit unlucky in the game on Saturday:” added McKee. “They will be behind each other this week and come well prepared for match.
The USA had to dig deep with Sale’s AJ MacGinty delivering all the points to overcome Samoa and captain Blaine Scully admitted: “It was a really tight contest and I’m not sure either team deserved to lose. It was an 80-minute arm wrestle.”
Japan captain Michael Leitch is hoping a PNC triumph will give the World Cup hosts real momentum and told Kyodo News: “I’m really looking forward to next week. In my career, I’ve never won anything so it’s a chance to get a little trophy for the first time.”
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