Pasifika Rugby is back on the big stage as all three of our Pacific nations take to the field this Saturday. In an action-packed weekend of international rugby, the Manu Samoa play host to the Flying Fijians, and the ‘Ikale Tahi venture to Osaka to face-off against the Brave Blossoms of Japan.
Any match between these two giants of the Pacific never fails to deliver an absolute spectacle of Pasifika rugby. With both teams coming off hard fought wins last week, this Saturday’s match up will be a great opportunity for either team to gain momentum heading into the World Cup. Manu Samoa will be welcomed by their home fans who were last treated to a match between Moana Pasifika and the Queensland Reds in April this year. The entire country will be at a standstill as they come out in the thousands to support their beloved Manu.
The Manu Samoa lineup features six Moana Pasifika players, with five being named in the starting fifteen.
Lining up at hooker, Ray Niuia takes over Luteru Tolai to make his first start for his country since 2021.
Featuring in his first professional rugby game for the year, Jack Lam enters the starting lineup as openside flanker. The veteran number seven has made 40 appearances for Samoa and will be excited to get back on the field in his home country.
The formidable combination of Ereatara Enari and Christian Lealiifano form for the first time in the Manu Samoa jersey, after multiple years of playing side by side for Moana Pasifika. The two navigators will have great confidence in their chemistry and will draw the best out of each other as the navigators of their team.
Danny Toala returns to the fifteen jersey. The versatile fullback has the playmaking and running game to influence the match and will be working closely with Lealiifano from the back, a tried-and-true combination for Moana Pasifika.
Off the bench, Alai D’angelo Leuila is set to make his 18th appearance for the Manu Samoa. His ability to slot in to virtually any position in the backline makes Leuila a great asset to bring off the bench. In his last outing at Apia Park, Leuila put on a Man of the Match performance for Moana Pasifika from Second-Five.
Making his highly anticipated debut for the Manu is All Black number 1121 Steven Luatua. One of three debutants for Samoa, Luatua joins an extremely experienced forward pack which features Paul Alo-Emile, Jack Lam and captain Fritz Lee.
The Flying Fijians are set to name five debutants in their matchday 23. The Fijian Drua captain Meli Derenalagi will make his debut on the blindside, where he joins other Drua standouts Tevita Ikanivere, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Isoa Nasilasila, and Vilive Miramira in a strong forward pack. Last week Fiji showed that their forwards have made a significant improvement at the set piece and dangerous when they are all working in unison. With five forwards all coming from the Drua, their chemistry will be a valuable asset as they venture into enemy territory.
The Fijian backline is stacked with x-factor and game-breaking stars.
Headlined by Captain and the world renowned Semi Radradra at Second-Five, his midfield partner comes in the form of Iosefo Masi, one of the most dangerous men in Super Rugby Pacific this season.
Backing up off of a standout game last week against the ‘Ikale Tahi, Caleb Muntz will lead his team from flyhalf, combining with fellow Drua fullback and debutant Ilaisa Droasese.
Kalaveti Ravouvou and Selestino Ravutaumada will be a handful for the Manu to contain on the wings, and Josua Tuisova coming off the bench means the Manu will have to be switched on for the entire 80 minutes.
Watch Manu Samoa v Flying Fijians this Saturday 29 July
Apia Park Stadium, Samoa.
The ‘Ikale Tahi face Japan in their third week of the Pacific Nations International tests. In an impressive win against Australia A at home, and a hard-fought encounter with the Flying Fijians last week, the Tongan team have shown the greatest asset of their game to be their physicality. A monstrous forward pack that can front up on defence, the ‘Ikale Tahi depth week to week shows the strength of Tongan rugby.
Six Moana Pasifika players feature in the ‘Ikale Tahi match-day squad.
Returning to starting hooker is Samiuela Moli. Last week Japan were extremely strong at the lineout and so Moli’s accuracy will be a strong asset for his team to lean on to counter Japan’s set piece.
Making his first appearance for his country this year, Moana Pasifika’s newest Sione Havili Talitui comes into the starting lineup at openside flanker. Last running out for the Crusaders in the Super Rugby Pacific final, Havili Talitui is entering career best form which he’ll take into this year’s World Cup.
Also returning to the pivotal flyhalf is William Havili who was extremely impressive in his last outing in the ten jersey. His signature kicking game is even more of a strength at First-Five, and his ability to read the defence and play at the line gives his firepower out wide a opportunities to play fast-paced running rugby.
After two impressive performances, Kyren Taumoefolau is named to make his starting debut for the ‘Ikale Tahi. The elusive winger has not only held his own in his opportunities, but looked extremely comfortable getting involved with the physicality of Pasifika rugby.
Coming off the bench is Moana Man Solomone Funaki and halfback Manu Paea, who will both be looking to deliver a strong impact off the bench against a Japanese team that will be firing for all 80 minutes.
Watch ‘Ikale Tahi v Japan this Saturday 29 July
Hanazano Rugby Stadium, Osaka
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