Preview: Samoa v Tonga

Samoa and Tonga will be playing for pride when they meet in their final game of the 2016 Pacific Nations Cup.

Fiji were crowned champions for the second year in a row with a 26-16 victory over Samoa in Suva last weekend which means that Samoa and Tonga will be playing for second place when the two teams meet at Apia Park on Saturday.

Both teams are yet to record a win in their last two matches with Samoa drawing 19-19 with Georgia the weekend prior to their loss against Fiji, while Tonga went down 23-18 to Fiji two weeks ago before they were beaten by a last minute converted try in a 23-20 loss against Georgia in Suva last weekend.

The teams played out to an 18-18 draw in their last clash at Apia Park in 2014 with Fangatapu Apikotoa slotting a last minute penalty kick which saved the game for Tonga.  Also crossing the whitewash for Samoa during that memorable game was wingers Fautua Otto and captain David Lemi while Tonga scored two five pointers through winger Otulea Katoa and lock Josh Afu.

Samoa coach Alama Ieremia has made several changes to his starting team for this clash.

In the forwards, hooker Manu Leiataua comes in for the injured Motu Matuu while Jeff Lepa is preferred to Filo Paulo at lock and prop Census Johnston will pack down in the front row. In the backs fly-half Patrick Faapale replaces the injured Tusi Pisi and he will form the half-back combination alongside scrum-half Pelefofoga Cowley. Paul Perez starts at outside centre, Faatoina Autagavaia moves to the wing and he will form a back three combination alongside captain David Lemi and full-back Malu Falaniko.

Flanker Faifili Levave will look to secure quick ball at the breakdown for Samoa and make sure that there is good link-up play between the forwards and the backs.

Samoa are ranked at 15th place according to the latest World Rugby rankings while Tonga are one position above their hosts in 14th position.

The teams have played each other on 60 occasions with the record standing at 32 wins for Samoa. Tonga have emerged victorious on 24 occasions while the teams have shared the spoils no less than four times.

This game should produce plenty of fireworks with both teams looking to end off their tournament with a victory, Samoa were impressive in running up a 16-10 halftime lead against Fiji last weekend and if they are able to build on that first-half performance they should be able to get the better of Tonga in this clash.

Players to watch:

For Samoa: Full-back Malu Falaniko was part of the Samoa U20 team which competed at the 2015 Junior World Championship in Italy. He helped his team record a 30-24 victory over Italy U20 with a 20 point tally which included three penalties along with three conversions a five pointer of his own.  

For Tonga: Viliame Iongi dotted down for a five pointer against Georgia last weekend. The skilful wing has a good burst of acceleration and possesses some good stepping skills which has left many opposition defences tracking back. Number eight Sione Tau is also one to watch. He has a good understanding of when to send the ball to the wide channels and when to set the phases.

Head-to-head: The battle of the inside centres will be an interesting contest with Rey Lee Lo going up against Tonga’s Latiume Fosita. Both players will look to run over their opposition defender rather than look for space on the outside and there are sure to be some big hits in the midfield.

Previous results:

2014: Samoa drew 18-18 at Apia Park in Apia
2012: Samoa won 20-18 in Nagoya
2011: Tonga won 29-19 in Lautoka
2010: Samoa won 24-23 in Apia
2009: Samoa won 27-13 in Lautoka
2008: Samoa won 20-15 in Nuku A'lofa
2007: Tonga won 19-15 in Montpellier
2007: Samoa won 50-3 in Apia

Prediction: Both team's have had their struggles in recent weeks, however this time round the home team should be able come away with the victory. Samoa to win by six points.

The teams:

Samoa: 15 Malu Falaniko, 14 Faatoina Autagavaia, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Rey Lee Lo, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Patrick Faapale, 9 Pele Cowley, 8 Alafoti Faosiliva, 7 Greg Foe, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Jeff Lepa, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Sakaria Taulafo
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Sam Aiono, 18 Viliamu Afatia, 19 Filo Paulo, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Danny Tusitala, 22 D'Angelo Leuila, 23 Albert Nikoro

Tonga: tbc

Date: Saturday, June 25
Venue: Apia Park
Kick-off: 15:00 local time (02:00 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Samuela Tuidraki (Fiji)