RWC2023: Tonga, Samoa name strong line-ups as Fiji due to make changes

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Manu Samoa preparing for their match against World Cup debutants Chile
Manu Samoa . . . preparing for their match against World Cup debutants Chile at the Stade de Bordeaux on Sunday morning. Image: Samoa Rugby Union

By Iliesa Tora, RNZ Pacific sports reporter in Bordeaux, France

Tonga has named their strongest match-day 23 to face world No 1 Ireland in the French city of Nantes in their first Rugby World Cup pool match on Sunday morning (New Zealand time).

French-based prop forward Ben Tameifuna will lead the side against the Irish in a tactical move that sees captain Sonatane Takulua starting off the bench.

Manu Samoa, who arrived in Bordeaux yesterday afternoon, have also announced a strong team that will battle World Cup debutants Chile at the Stade de Bordeaux, also early on Sunday morning.

RUGBY WORLD CUP FRANCE 2023

Head coach Seilala Mapusua has named his experienced flyhalves Christian Leali’ifano and Lima Sopoaga in the match-day 23.

Meanwhile, Fiji is expected to make changes for the crucial game against Australia at Saint-Etienne on Monday morning (NZ time).

Tonga focused
‘Ikale Tahi head coach Toutai Kefu said they are focused on Ireland, which began the World Cup with an 82-8 thrashing of Romania last weekend.

“This is a very exciting Tonga team who I think will prove to be very competitive against the best in the world,” he told media in Paris before the team left for Nantes.

“The players are looking forward to playing the best and testing themselves against a confident, capable Ireland team. We’ve been watching them for 12 months now and they definitely deserve the number one team in the world tag.

“The boys are excited to get out there and play. There will be no lack of motivation to do their country and their families proud.”

Kefu has retained the front-row trio of Tameifuna, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and hooker Paula Ngauamo.

He has also gone for height and speed in the loosies and locks selections.

Vice-captain Halaleva Fifita and Samiuela Lousi start at locks while Tanginoa Halaifonua, Sione Havili and Vaea Fifita complete the loose trio.

In a major move, Kefu has opted to give Augustine Pulu the nod ahead of Takulua.

Takulua, Tonga’s most capped player, has been the first-choice halfback for the last six years.

Kefu’s backline choice sees William Havili at fly half while Pita Akhi pairs former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa in midfield.

Former Mate Ma’a Tonga and Auckland Warriors winger Solomone Kata pairs Afusipa Taumoepeau on the wings, with former All Black Salesi Piutau manning the fullback berth.

Tonga lineup:1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 3 Ben Tameifuna (c), 4, Samiuela Lousi, 5 Halaleva Fifita, 6 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7 Sione Havili, 8 Vaea Fifita, 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 William Havili, 11 Solomone Kata, 12 Pita Ahki, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 14 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 15 Salesi Piutau; Reserves – 16 Samiuela Moli,17 Sosefo ‘Apikotoa,18 Tau Kolomatangi, 19 Semisi Paea, 20 Solomone Funaki, 21 Sione Vailanu, 22 Sonatane Takulua, 23 Fini Inisi.

Respect for Chile
Manu Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua said they respected the South Americans and have named a strong team to face them.

“The whole lead-up to the Rugby World Cup has been about Chile, our first game.

“And we are giving them the respect they deserve and making sure we not only do our own people proud but also make sure we are taking steps towards our own goal as Manu Samoa,” Mapusua told media in Bordeaux yesterday.

Mapusua said they do not underestimate Chile and believed their opponents had played well against Japan in their opening pool game last weekend.

“We need to start well. This is our first game at the Rugby World Cup,” he said.

“We have to nail the opportunities we get.”

He has named both his co-captains Michael Ala’alatoa and Chris Vui in the starting team.

With two experienced flyhalves in former Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano and former All Black Lima Sopoaga both available to him, Mapusua has gone for Leali’ifano to start.

He said he was lucky to have such talented flyhalves and both could play as well as the other.

“They are very similar in their roles with us. I expect them to control the game and really manage the team over the full 80 minutes.

“We are blessed to have them.”

Former All Black Steven Luatua gets to run in at No 8.

Manu Samoa lineup: 1. James Lay, 2. Seilala Lam, 3. Michael Alalatoa, 4. Chris Vui, 5. Theo MacFarland, 6. Taleni Seu, 7. Fritz Lee, 8. Steven Luatua, 9. Johnathan Taumateine, 10, Christian Leialiifano, 11. Nigel Ah-Wong, 12. Tumua Manu, 13. Ulupani Junior Seuteni, 14. Danny Toala, 15. Duncan Paia’aua; Reserves – 16. Sama Malolo, 17. Jordan Lay, 18. Paul Alo-Emile, 19. Sam Slade, 20. Sa Jordan Taufua, 21. Ereatara Enari, 22. Lima Sopoaga, 23. Ed Fidow.

Fiji to ring the changes
Meanwhile, the Flying Fijians are expected to make some changes to their team that lost 32-26 to Wales last Sunday in Bordeaux.

The Fijians meet the Wallabies on Monday morning (Fiji time) in a must-win game for them.

Josua Tuisova is expected to start at No 12, pushing Semi Radradra out to the wing, with Levani Botia also expected to start at No 7.

Coach Simon Raiwalui will name his team on Friday local time.

Raiwalui said their focus this week had been on the Wallabies.

“We have very good spirit, the boys were laughing again and they were training well,” Raiwalui said.

Fiji sits on two points behind both Australia and Wales and needs to win against the Wallabies to keep their hopes of a quarter-final spot alive.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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