Japan out to wreck Samoan plans
June 18, 2010
James Arlidge starts at fly-half for Japan © Getty Images
The second round of the Pacific Nations Cup sees Fiji and Samoa out to set up a winner-takes-all tie for the title in the final round, but there's plenty of rugby to be played this weekend as they face off against Tonga and Japan.
Fiji's opening round win over John Kirwan's Japan was a body blow to the Asian Five Nations champions, rocking their confidence after they cruised to Rugby World Cup qualification.
Kirwan now pits his side against the Samoans, whose energy will be typically high after they narrowly saw off fierce rivals Tonga last weekend to keep alive the momentum generated by their victory in the IRB Sevens World Series. They have made a change in midfield, where goal-kicking centre Gavin Williams replaces George Pisi.
Kirwan fired a warning shot last weekend in ruing his side's collapse, saying that there was plenty more to come. "We lost it, they didn't beat us," the former All Black said. "If we can cut down our error rate and get some rhythm to our game then we'll be fine. I think we can play a lot better."
Kirwan has made two changes for the game, recalling James Arlidge at fly-half in place of Shaun Webb and Toshizumi Kitagawa in the second-row ahead of Luke Thompson.
Fiji have placed great hope in one of last weekend's try-scorers, scrum-half Nikola Matawalu, for their Rugby World Cup bid following the retirement of Moses Rauluni and the youngster will go up against Tonga's playmaking threat in Kurt Morath.
After round one, fly-half Morath tops the points-scoring charts. Last weekend his brother Daniel provided plenty of spark as they were edged out 24-23 by the Samoans, with fullback Vunga Lilo and wing Alaska Taufa scoring their tries, but he has been replaced by Samisoni Fisilau for this weekend's vital game.
"I know Fijian players are very talented players and we are not taking them lightly in this game, it is really important" Morath said. "All I want is to help Tonga and get the team to a higher status. My love for Tonga is always inspiring me to push the team to the next level. I will give everything, as will all the other players, to go out there and get the win. I think we can win the game against Fiji so we are looking forward to it."