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Samoa name one new cap as Pacific Nations Cup title goes on the line

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Samoa have made a flurry of changes to their match day team to face Fiji as the Pacific Nations Cup goes on the line this weekend.

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Leading the tournament with two wins from as many games heading into the final round of action, Samoa are in pole position to claim their first Pacific Nations Cup title since 2014.

After upsetting Australia A in the opening match of the competition, Samoa overturned an 18-3 deficit to score 31 unanswered points and beat Tonga at Churchill Park last weekend.

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That means Manu Samoa sit atop the Pacific Nations Cup standings heading into their clash with the Flying Fijians against the hosts in Lautoka on Saturday, a match they must win to ensure their silverware drought ends.

With that in mind, head coach Seilala Mapusua has made seven personnel changes and multiple positional switches to his starting team for the Fijian fixture.

Arguably the most notable change comes in the reserves, where Moana Pasifika prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth is in line for his test debut after coming into the squad as a late call-up.

Lindenmuth fills in the No 17 jersey in place of Aki Seiuli, the one-test Dragons prop who has been promoted from the bench to join captain Michael Alaalatoa and last week’s hat-trick hero Ray Niuia in the front row.

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Together, they form a new-look tight five that also features locks Chris Vui and Theo McFarland, the latter of whom has moved into the second row from blindside flanker.

McFarland’s place in the No 6 jersey has been taken by Sharks flanker Olajuwon Noa, whose inclusion in the back row is part of an overhauled loose forward trio.

Injury has forced Manu Samoa veteran Jack Lam out of the match day squad, resulting in a move from No 8 to openside flanker for former All Blacks squad member Jordan Taufua.

The vacancy at No 8 has been taken by ex-All Blacks Sevens player Fritz Lee, who joined Taufua and Seiuli in making his test debut for Samoa last week.

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In the backline, Moana Pasifika halfback Ereatara Enari – who will make his first test appearance after making his Samoa debut against Australia A – will resume his halves partnership with Brumbies first-five Rodney Iona.

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Enari and Ioane replace Jonathan Taumateine and AJ Alatimu, respectively, with the former dropping to the bench at the expense of Auvasa Faleali’i.

The return of Moana Pasifika playmaker D’Angelo Leuila to the starting lineup has instigated a reshuffle out wide, where last week’s try-scoring debutant Tumua Manu has been pushed from second-five to centre in order to accomodate Leuila.

As such, last week’s centre Neria Foma’i moves to the right wing in place of recent Major League Rugby title-winner Ed Fidow.

Foma’i joins test rookies Nigel Ah Wong and Danny Toala, both of whom have kept their respective places at left wing and fullback, in Manu Samoa’s outside backs.

Moana Pasifika midfielder Henry Taefu and new Benetton loose forward Henry Time-Stowers, meanwhile, are the only other additions to the bench alongside Lindenmuth, Lam and Taumateine.

All five of those players accompany Seilala Lam, Kalolo Tuiloma, Michael Curry and Lolagi Visinia – the latter two of whom made their test debuts against Tonga – in the reserves.

Kick-off for Saturday’s clash between Samoa and Fiji is scheduled for 3:30pm local time.

Manu Samoa team to play Fiji

1. Aki Seiuli
2. Ray Niuia
3. Michael Alaalatoa (c)
4. Theo McFarland
5. Chris Vui
6. Olajuwon Noa
7. Jordan Taufua
8. Fritz Lee
9. Ereatara Enari
10. Rodney Iona
11. Nigel Ah Wong
12. D’Angelo Leuila
13. Tumua Manu
14. Neria Foma’i
15. Danny Toala

Reserves:

16. Seilala Lam
17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth*
18. Kalolo Tuiloma
19. Michael Curry
20. Henry Time-Stowers
21. Jonathan Taumateine
22. Henry Taefu
23. Lolagi Visinia

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