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Tonga and Fiji name star-studded teams for Pacific Battle

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Getty Images)

The Pacific Nations Cup kicks off this weekend with ‘Ikale Tahi facing the Flying Fijians in Lautoka.

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The Tongan side made a strong start to their World Cup year with a 27-21 victory over an Australia A team packed with former and fringe Wallaby talent just a week ago.

Head coach Toutai Kefu has named a number of changes from that match, opting to rest Israel Folau and Pita Ahki who were both influential in the match against Australia A. The changes make way for Fine Inisi on the right wing and Afusipa Taumoepeau in the midfield.

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William Havili has also been replaced at first-five with Otumaka Mausia taking the reigns. An exciting prospect in Patrick Pellegrini has been named to debut off the bench.

The changes offer coach Kefu a look at the depth of his squad on the international stage, helping inform his selections for the World Cup squad.

Fiji is also looking to blood some new talent, with Fijian Drua trio Caleb Muntz, Selestino Ravutaumada and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta all named to debut along with France-based utility forward Lekima Tagitagivalu, who turned down the French Sevens team to pursue his Flying Fijians dream.

“I think Caleb earns that spot. He is a very creative fly-half and has played well in the Super Rugby Pacific so it’s going to be a big day for him and others,” said coach Simon Raiwalui.

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“Really exciting to have new players coming into the team and obviously a great honour to have the debutants coming to play for Fiji for the first time.”

The selection leaves Ben Volavola on the bench for impact, where he’ll be joined by Semi Radradra.

Josua Tuisova will line up in the midfield opposite former All Black Malakai Fekitoa for one of many mouthwatering matchups.

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Fiji’s team:

1. Peni Ravai, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Mesake Doge, 4. Isoa Nasilasila, 5. Temo Mayanavanua, 6. Lekima Tagitagivalu, 7. Levani Botia, 8. Albert Tuisue, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Caleb Muntz, 11. Selesitino Ravutaumada, 12. Josua Tuisova, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), 14. Jiuta Wainiqolo, 15. Sireli Maqala

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Reserves – 16. Tevita Ikanivere, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Luke Tagi, 19. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 20. Vilimate Mata, 21. Peni Matawalu, 22. Ben Volavola, 23. Semi Radradra

Tonga’s team:

1. Siegfrtied Fisi’ihoi, 2. Siua Maile, 3. Ben Tameifuna, 4. Halaleva Fifita, 5. Samiuela Lousi, 6. Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7. Solomone Funaki, 8. Vaea Fifita, 9. Sonatane Takulua (captain), 10. Otumaka Mausia, 11. Solomone Kata, 12. Malakai Fekitoa, 13. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 14. Fine Inisi, 15. Salesi Piutau

Reserves – 16. Samiuela Moli, 17. Feao Fotuaika, 18. Tau Koloamatangi, 19. Sitiveni Mafi, 20. Sione Vailanu, 21. Manu Paea, 22. Patrick Pellegrini, 23. Kyren Taumoefolau

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1 Comment
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Jon 360 days ago

So good seeing players having a second chance at choosing Tonga as their nation. I wonder as Japan's side builds whether there won't be other Tongan's that will be able to switch allegiance.

Really need to take hold of this moment now to insure these sort of avenues aren't needed. They need to be big billing so that remuneration from Tonga will supersede a greedy club nation (that will indoctrinate them).

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William 2 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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