Pacific rugby showdown
8 July, 2017, 12:00 am
FIJI will face a fiery Ikale Tahi in front of a huge crowd at the newly-refurbished Teufaiva Stadium in the Tongan capital. Playing against Tonga at home will be tough.
However, Fiji’s advantage is that the tournament combines the 2016 and 2017 results, deciding which two teams from the region win automatic berths to the 2019 RWC.
Tonga, hosting their first Test in eight years, made a winning start to their PNC campaign with a 30-26 victory over Samoa last Saturday. The victory allowed Tonga to draw level with Samoa on five points in the combined standings from the two campaigns ahead of their meeting with Fiji, who top the table on eight points after winning both their matches last year.
Based on form, ranking and international Test outing the Flying Fijians are in the driving seat to qualify as Oceania 1 and join Australia, Wales and Georgia in Pool D at the RWC.
Despite this record, we must not allow the heavier Tongan pack to dominate and win set pieces.
Tonga has named a strong side and includes experience and power in Jack Ram, Fosita, Tameifuna, Fis’ihoi, Fifita, Mafi, Pakalani and Pitau, who takes over the captaincy from Nili Latu.
The Tongans will be playing in front of their King and will not want to disappoint him. Hence Tonga will be going for a win. They will be backed by a sea of red as their pride and dignity will be at stake.
John McKee has named an exciting line-up and has recalled experienced front rowers Ma’afu, Koto and Saulo.
In the backs he has opted for Tuisova and Osborne, who played the game of their lives against Scotland and if they continue their form then Tonga is in for a shock.
Tikoirotuma and Goneva add speed and experience to our backline.
Both teams know that the country that finishes as Oceania 2, will go into the toughest pool in the tournament along with England, France and Argentina while the 3rd placed team will go into a playoff against a 2nd tier European team for a spot in Pool A with Ireland, Scotland and hosts Japan.
Therefore, it’s a must win for Fiji. We win this match, we go to the RWC as Oceania 1.
All the best to our Flying Fijians against the Ikale Tahi!