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Star trio marked absent as Tonga change eight for Samoan game

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

Tonga have made eight changes to their starting line-up to play Samoa this weekend following last week’s disappointing 36-0 loss to Fiji in Suva in the Pacific Nations Cup. The Tongans generated great hype leading into that opening match as they had selected an XV that included for the first time the ex-All Blacks duo of Malakai Fekitoa and Charles Piutau along with former Wallaby Israel Folau.

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However, those seasoned veterans of the Test game – who had re-qualified under the revamped World Rugby eligibility criteria – failed to fire in a five tries to nil loss made worse by the tenth-minute hamstring injury suffered by Folau.

All three are now marked absent from the Tonga team that will take on the Samoans in Lautoka in round two of the championship – but one big name does return to the set-up as French-based tighthead Ben Tameifuna is included to start.

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RugbyPass Insiders | Tonga | Road to Japan
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RugbyPass Insiders | Tonga | Road to Japan

Just three backs from last weekend’s loss have been chosen for the second successive match, midfielder Afusipa Taumoepeau, left wing Anzelo Tu’itavuki and scrum-half Sonatane Takula. In the pack, loosehead Siegfried Fishi’ihoi, lock Veikoso Poloniati and back-rowers Tanginoa Halaifonua and Sione Tu’ipulotu are the four repeat starters.

Two players are in line to make their Test debuts from the bench, loosehead Fe’ao Fotuaika and No23 Otumaka Mausia.

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Helped by combinations forged in Super Rugby with Fijian Drua, Fiji dominated the setpiece and the breakdown to build a 22-0 half-time lead against the new-look Tonga who will now hope that Samoa, 31-26 round one winners over Australia A in the four-team tournament, won’t be allowed to repeat in the second match of three warm-ups for Toutai Kefu’s team ahead of their July 23 World Cup qualifier against opposition from Asia.

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TONGA (vs Samoa, Saturday)
15. William Havili; 14. Tima Fainga’anuku, 13. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12. Fetuli Paea, 11. Anzelo Tu’itavuki; 10. James Faiva, 9. Sonatane Takula; 1. Siegfried Fishi’ihoi, 2. Siua Maile, 3. Ben Tameifuna, 4. Veikoso Poloniati, 5. Sam Lousi, 6. Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7. Sione Havili, 8. Sione Tu’ipulotu. Reps: 16. Samiuela Moli, 17. Fe’ao Fotuaika, 18. Siate Tokolahi, 19. Semisi Paea, 20. Solomone Funaki, 21. Lotu Inisi, 22, Manu Paea, 23. Otumaka Mausia

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