This year’s edition of the Pacific Nations Cup promises to be one of the most competitive and fascinating to date with all six participating teams making their final Rugby World Cup 2019 preparations and chasing rating points to improve their position in the World Rugby Rankings.
The tournament will be contested by Japan, Canada, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and USA over three rounds starting this Saturday on 27 July, 3 August and 9-10 August 2019, offering teams a vital chance to fine-tune their squads and scope out the opposition.
With Rugby World Cup fever sweeping the nation and awareness at an all-time high, Japan will host two Pacific Nations Cup matches as part of the country’s Rugby World Cup readiness programme.
The matches in host cities Kamaishi and Hanazono - both of which are sell-outs - will be used for operational testing to ensure the country is primed and ready for the Rugby World Cup kick-off on 20 September. Additional Pacific Nations Cup 2019 matches will take place in Samoa, Fiji and USA.
Reigning champions Fiji, who have won the past four Pacific Nations Cups will be looking to add a fifth consecutive title to their trophy room as the tournament’s highest-ranked team but will face stiff competition from fellow Pacific Islands Tonga and Samoa, both with a point to prove as they build towards Rugby World Cup.
Meanwhile, Japan, Canada and USA, who rejoin the tournament for the first time since 2015, will want to put their finishing touches on squad preparations, using the tournament as a springboard for Rugby World Cup later in the year.
Fans in Canada, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand, Samoa and USA can watch the Pacific Nations Cup matches on TV while rugby fans around the world can follow the action live on World Rugby’s digital platforms at www.worldrugby.org/pnc.
TONGA (13) v SAMOA (16)
Tonga’s Nasi Manu will make an emotional return to the international rugby field in the Pacific Nations Cup opener against Samoa on Saturday after being cleared of testicular cancer. Manu leads out the 'Ikale Tahi from number eight in a back row also featuring flankers Onehunga Vavili and Maama Vaipulu. Leva Fifita and test debutant Sam Lousi make up the engine room, while Paea Fa’anunu, Elvis Taione and Ben Tameifuna, forM the front row.
Tonga A fly-half James Faiva graduates to the senior ranks alongside experienced scrum-half Samisoni Fisilau, who is in his ninth season of international rugby. Cooper Vuna brings physicality to the midfield having switched from the wing and he is joined in the centres by Malietoa Hingano. Viliame Lolohea, who scored on his Tonga debut in last season's Pacific Nations Cup, lines up on the left with Revita Halaifonua selected on the other flank. Full-back Nafi Tu’itavake completes the backline.
Sevens ace Belgium Tuatagaloa gets his first taste of senior 15s rugby for Samoa after being selected on the left wing. Johnny Vaili lines up on the opposite wing to the 29-year-old with Ahsee Tuala named at full-back. Coach Steve Jackson has taken the opportunity to try out a new half-back combination with Auvasa Faleali'i set to make his first start at scrum-half, in what is his third test appearance, alongside uncapped fly-half Ulupano Seutini. Reynold Lee-Lo and Alapati Leiua make up the midfield.
Leiua's Bristol Bears team-mate, Chris Vui, is included in the back row at blindside with TJ Ioane donning the seven jersey and Afaesetitii Amosa packing down at eight. Teofilo Paulo and Kane Leaupepe are the second-row combination, while Logovi'i Mulipola and Paul Alo-Emile are either side of captain and hooker Motu Matu'u in the front row.
- This is the 64th test between the sides. Samoa leads the head-to-head 33-26 with four draws
- Tonga have won the last two meetings between the sides – Samoa had won 15 of the previous 19 matches
- Tonga need to score 54 points to reach 1,000 points in this fixture
- Tonga can only climb a place if they win by more than 15 points and Japan lose by the same margin
- Samoa will swap places with Spain – the side immediately below them – in defeat to equal their lowest ever position
- Samoa can only climb if they win and the USA lose to Canada at home
- Tonga will drop below Italy in defeat and also the USA if they lose by more than 15 points and the Eagles win against Canada
FIJI (9) v JAPAN (11)
Loose-head prop Eroni Mawi gets his first start for Fiji on home soil. The Suva-based player is joined in the front row by hooker Sam Matavesi – whose brother Josh has to settle for a place on the bench – and vastly more experienced tight-head Manasa Saulo. 2016 Olympic gold medallist Leone Nakarawa provides the x-factor in the second row alongside the equally dynamic Albert Tuisue, while captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Semi Kunatani and Viliame Mata form the back row.
Frank Lomani gets the nod ahead of last year's top try-scorer, Henry Seniloli, in a tried and tested half-back combination with Ben Volavola. Patrick Osborne and Filipo Nakosi provide the threats out wide with Alivereti Veitokani chosen at full-back. Levani Botia and Waisea Nayacalevu line up in midfield.
Lappie Labuschagne becomes the ninth player to captain Japan on debut after the Kubota Spears forward was selected at openside in a back row containing Kazuki Himeno on the flank and Amanaki Mafi at number eight. James Moore also wins his first Brave Blossoms cap as second-row partner to Rugby World Cup veteran Luke Thompson. The front row is made up of Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie and Asaeli Valu.
In the backs, Kaito Shigeno and Yu Tamura line up at half-back and Ryoto Nakamura gets the chance to add to his impressive tally of six tries in nine starts after being named in midfield alongside Timothy Lafaele. The back-three is made up of wings Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima with William Tupou at full-back. Uncapped forward Yusuke Kizu is on the bench.
- This is the 18th test between the teams. Fiji leads the head-to-head 14-3
- Fiji won 38-25 when the sides last met in Vannes, France on 22 November, 2016
- Fiji need 33 points to reach 500 in the fixture
- Fiji have won the last four PNCs and have five titles overall
- Japan won the title in 2011 and 2014
- Fiji will climb above France into eighth if they win by more than 15 points, equalling their highest ever position achieved after beating Les Bleus last November
- Fiji can fall as low as 11th depending on margin and Australia v Argentina outcome
- Japan will fall one or two places in defeat, depending on margin and outcome of Tonga v Samoa match
- On the flipside, Japan could equal their highest-ever ranking of ninth if win by more than 15 points and Argentina lose by the same margin
@lucasrumball & captain @tyardron give us their thoughts on 🇨🇦's first test en route to @rugbyworldcup against @USARugby this Saturday, July 27 #RugbyCA #PNC2019 @TSN_Sports— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) July 25, 2019
LIVE on https://t.co/TunmtIjwnS TSN app- 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
Delayed on TSN1- 11 PM ET/8 PM PT pic.twitter.com/zeHSuUpwwW
USA (15) v CANADA (21)
USA Sevens players Martin Iosefo and Madison Hughes are both in line for their first test appearances since 2017. Iosefo is given the nod on the wing while Hughes is on standby after being named on the replacements bench.
There are plenty of other single-figure capped internationals in the matchday squad including Chance Wenglewski, who wins his fourth cap at prop, while Malon Al-Jiboori appears for the third time at blindside flanker. Hooker Dylan Fawsitt and full-back Will Hooley each have eight caps apiece. Captain and right-wing Blaine Scully is the most experienced member of the starting XV with 46 caps. Houston SaberCats' Jamason Faanana-Schultz could make his international debut from the bench.
Peter Nelson makes his debut for Canada at fly-half in an otherwise experienced backline. Head coach Kingsley Jones has selected record try scorer, DTH van der Mere, on the left wing and Conor Trainor on the right. Ciaran Hearn wins his 67th cap at inside centre alongside Ben LeSage. Pat Parfrey lines up at full-back.
Number eight Tyler Ardron leads the Canucks for the 12th time, taking him ahead of scrum-half Phil Mack and into seventh place outright on the overall list. He is joined in the back row by Kyle Baillie and Matt Heaton while second-rowers Evan Olmstead and Conor Keys pack down behind props Hubert Buydens and Cole Keith and hooker Benoit Piffero.
- This is the 62nd test between the team. Canada leads the head-to-head 38-21 with three draws
- USA have won nine of last 10 matches (one draw) with Canada
- Canada’s last win was 13-11 in Toronto on 24 August, 2013
- USA won the last meeting in Seattle 30-25 in the Americas Rugby Championship in March
- A USA victory will have no impact on the ratings of either side
- Canada would still trail Russia – the side immediately above them – by 0.45 points with a win by more than 15 points