24 Jul 2015

Sport: Samoa and Fiji ring changes for PNC clash

5:08 pm on 24 July 2015

Manu Samoa are wary of being drawn into a battle royale against Fiji in tomorrow's Pacific Nations Cup clash in Sacramento.

Both teams made a winning start to the competition last week, against the USA and Tonga, and will continue their build-up to the Rugby World Cup at Bonney Field.

Veteran prop Sakaria Taulafo expects a typically bruising encounter against their traditional rivals but says they can't afford to go overboard.

"I think it's going to be much more physical than last week but it's just a matter of trying to stay away from the island almost more fighting and contact each other, instead of using the brain and keeping the structure - what we've been training all week. I think last week we kind of put USA on the backfoot for a bit in the first half. I think it's going to be hard to do that against the Fijians but the coaches and the team are working on a plan to come against a strong Fijian side".

There are six changes to the Samoa run-on fifteen, with coach Stephen Betham continuing to rotate players to test combinations and ensure everyone has game time on tour.

Hooker Motu Matu'u will make his first test start in the only change to the forward pack.

There's a new halves combination with Pele Cowley given then nod in the number nine jersey and Michael Stanley to run the ship at first five.

Johnny Leota and Alofa Alofa return at second five and wing respectively, while Faatoina Autagavaia comes in at fullback.

Local winger Faleniu Iosi is also set to make his test debut off the bench.

Meanwhile Flying Fijians coach John McKee has made seven changes to his starting side.

The Flying Fijians in training before their Pacific Nations Cup clash with Samoa.

The Flying Fijians in training before their Pacific Nations Cup clash with Samoa. Photo: Fiji Rugby

Captain Akapusi Qera returns on the openside flank while Clermont flanker Peceli Yato earns his first test start on the blindside.

Peni Ravai, Api Ratuniyarawa, Nemia Kenatale, Gabiriele Lovobalavu and Metuisela Talebula also come into the run-on team.

Samoa squad:

1. Sakaria Taulafo

2. Motu Matu'u

3. Anthony Perenise

4. Teofilo Paulo

5. Faatiga Lemalu

6. TJ Ioane

7. Jack Lam

8. Vavae Tuilagi

9. Pele Cowley

10. Mike Stanley

11. Alesana Tuilagi

12. Johnny Leota

13. Paul Perez

14. Alofa Alofa

15. Faatoina Autagavaia

16. Ma'atulimanu Leiataua

17. Viliamu Afatia

18. Jake Grey

19. Joe Tekori

20. Faifili Levave

21. Vavao Afemai

22. Patrick Faapale

23. Faleniu Iosi

Fiji squad:

1. Peni Ravai

2. Sunia Koto

3. Manasa Saulo

4. Api Ratuniyarawa

5. Leone Nakarawa

6. Peceli Yato

7. Akapusi Qera - Captain

8. Sakiusa Matadigo

9. Nemia Kenatale

10. Ben Volavola

11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma

12. Gabiriele Lovobalavu

13. Vereniki Goneva - Vice Captain

14. Waisea Nayacalevu

15. Metuisela Talebula

16. Viliame Veikoso

17. Campese Maafu

18. Taniela Koroi

19. Nemia Soqeta

20. Malakai Ravulo

21. Henry Seniloli

22. Josh Matavesi