Pacific Nations Cup week 1: Preview and predictions

Tom English Roar Guru

By Tom English, Tom English is a Roar Guru

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    So its here again: Pacific culture, Six Nations’ hopefuls and the best of Tier 2 rugby collide in Suva for the 2018 edition of the PNC.

    This tournament looks mighty different from what we’re used to from it.

    Firstly, Georgia – the country trying to stake a claim for a Six Nations berth – will join the competition for the first time in their history, in a big month where they will play Tonga, Fiji and also Japan in a friendly.

    Teams will only play two competition games, meaning that the highest points accumulator in those weekends will take home the title – an obvious advantage to Tonga who avoid playing favourites Fiji within those two weekends – presumably due to Samoa having a crucial World Cup home-and-away versus Europe 2 beginning on June 30.

    All games will be played as double headers at ANZ Stadium in Suva, where the Ikale Tahi host the Lelos first up, followed by the Flying Fijians playing Manu Samoa.

    Tonga vs Georgia
    The Tongans go into this match in a bit of form, having outdone expectations last year with a upset victory over Samoa, and almost knocking over Fiji, ultimately losing 13-9.

    The last time they played, back in 2016, it was Georgia winning with a late try, 23-20, however all of those games were at home, so playing three consecutive matches on tour will be a new challenge for the Ikale Tahi.

    Georgia are, as I mentioned earlier, desperate for more Tier 1 rugby action, but while the PNC isn’t that, it’s about as good as it gets for Tier 2.

    The Lelos come off a narrow 16-15 victory over a French Barbarians outfit in a friendly last week, and prior to that: two wins and a close loss versus USA, Canada and Wales last November.

    Sunwolves hooker and inaugural Georgian Super Rugby player, Jaba Bregvadze will play from the bench for the men in maroon, for the first time since he moved to the Japanese team, so look out for him on the field

    Expect the Georgians to be too strong for the Tongans, this Lelos side is hugely underestimated for mine.

    Georgia by 10.

    Mamuka Gorgodze

    Georgia continue to improve. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOIS)

    Fiji vs Samoa
    Manu Samoa are in a very different boat to the Flying Fijians for this game: Fiji having already qualified for the Rugby World Cup, while Samoa still need to beat Europe 2 in a home-and-away fixture directly after this tournament.

    This is the game where Super Rugby names, both past and present, really start to kick in as Tusi Pisi, TJ Ioane, Ed Fidow and Renold Lee-Lo, to name a few, will line up in Samoa’s 23.

    Ben Volavola, Leone Nakarawa, and Henry Seniloli all will run out for Fiji, while Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova, both standouts for the Barbarians, will miss the first match due to 7s duties.

    Fiji won all four of their games at home last year; Italy, Scotland, Tonga and Samoa all suffered losses at their hands, so expect the Samoans to struggle once again.

    The last time they met, Fiji won 38-16, while in 2016 it was again Fiji with the victory, 26 points to 16

    Fiji to win by 21.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • June 9th 2018 @ 3:38am
      Cuw said | June 9th 2018 @ 3:38am | ! Report

      Fiji:

      15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Benito Masilevu, 13 Jale Vatubua, 12 Sevanaia Galala, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Henry Seniloli,

      8 Akapusi Qera (c), 7 Viliame Mata, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Talemaitoga Tuapati, 1 Campese Ma’afu

      Replacements:
      16 Ratu Vere Vugakoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Ropate Rinakama, 19 Sikeli Nabou, 20 Nemani Nagusa, 21 Serupepeli Vularika, 22 Alivereti Veitokani, 23 Timoci Nagusa

      Samoa:

      15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ed Fidow, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Melani Matavao,

      8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Chris Vui (c), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Logovii Mulipola

      Replacements:
      16 Seilala Lam, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Viliamu Afatia, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Dwayne Polataivao, 22 Rodney Iona, 23 Paul Perez

      Date: Saturday, June 9

      Venue: ANZ Stadium, Suva

      Kick-off: 15:30 local (03:30 GMT)

      Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)

      Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Jordan Way (Australia)

      Television match official: Ian Smith (Australia)

    • June 9th 2018 @ 8:40am
      Rakavi Fan said | June 9th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      After many days of rain, the sun has come out in Suva this morning. Hopefully it stays dry throughout the day. Saw the Georgians having a light run this morning while going for my morning walk. And the Fijians are camped out at the Grand Pacific Hotel … had a quick chat with Vereniki Goneva as he made his way to the team meeting … a real gentleman. Looking forward to the games today. Georgia over Tonga and Fiji over Samoa. Oh, and the Wallabies over Ireland (please!).

    • Roar Guru

      June 9th 2018 @ 9:21am
      The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 9th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Thanks for this.
      Both games can be streamed for free via World Rugby’s YouTube page, so anyone who wants to watch these games can easily to do so.

      • June 9th 2018 @ 12:42pm
        Akari said | June 9th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

        Thanks NVS as that was most important question on my mind as I was searching for these games on Foxtel last night and a minute ago.

        For mine, I like the look of the Samoan team and can win they retain composure as Fiji is still the team to beat IMHO.

        • June 9th 2018 @ 12:59pm
          Akari said | June 9th 2018 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          Just watched the game and it’s 16-15 to Georgia with Tonga dominating in the last 15 minutes and unlucky to lose.

          • Roar Guru

            June 9th 2018 @ 1:00pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 9th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            Five more minutes and Tonga would have won it I believe.

            Samoa will need to step up big time to challenge Fiji hence the Fijians look great on paper. Some proper world class players in there.

    • June 10th 2018 @ 9:15pm
      Johnno said | June 10th 2018 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

      I enjoy the PNC more than the rugby championship. Georgia beat Tonga again..

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