14 Jul 2017

Sport: Teams tinkered with for PNC rugby climax

5:58 am on 14 July 2017

Both Fiji and Samoa have made three changes to their starting 15 for the final match of this year's Pacific Nations Cup.

Fiji coach John McKee said he has named a strong line-up for the game.

Although the Fijians have already qualified for the 2019 World Cup, they can capture a third consecutive Pacific Nations Cup victory with a win in Apia on Saturday.

McKee said preparations for the team to defend their title have been going well although the Flying Fijian coach expects a intense match.

The Flying Fijians during a training session in Tonga.

Fiji are in the final throes of preparing for their match against Samoa Photo: Supplied / Fiji Rugby

Tuapati Talemaitoga comes in at hooker for Sunia Koto while halfback Henry Seniloli and veteran wing Vereniki Goneva break into the line-up.

New inclusions on the bench include Joeli Veitayaki and a trio of backs in Frank Lomani, Eroni Vasiteri and Josua Tuisova.

"With the PNC up for grabs and Samoa desperate to qualify for RWC in this series we expect a very tough challenge on Saturday," he said.

Although McKee said the Fijians are equally determined to complete a three-peat of titles.

He added that it was vital for the players to focus on all facets of the game which included execution under pressure in order to win the match.

"The players must focus on getting the small tasks right and executing our plays under pressure to win this match," McKee said.

"We missed out on a couple of tries last week because we were not accurate in our finishing or with the last pass."

"The team will have to work very hard in defence.

"Samoa have a very talented backline and we cannot afford to give them too much time and space," he said.

Samoa change forward pack

Manu Samoa have made three changes in the forwards for the match from the team that lost to Tonga 30-26.

Getting his first start for the Manu is Bay of Plenty prop Jordan Lay.

Lay's brother James is on the bench and will make his debut if gets on the field.

The other two changes sees young hooker Elia Elia get a start and experienced flanker Jack Lam returns from injury.

Brothers James and Jordan Lay.

Brothers James and Jordan Lay. Photo: Samoa Rugby Union / Wayne Dowd

The backline remains unchanged.

Head Coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia said he has selected a team he believes can counter a strong Fijian side that will be full of confidence.

"We have had a couple of disruptions with players in and out, but the team has continued seamlessly with its preparations this week.

"The entire squad have rallied together strongly to ensure we can put our best performance forward after our narrow loss against Tonga," he said.

Namulauulu said the team has gone about their work quietly understanding the enormity and significance of the game.

"We are clear on the requirements to get a much needed result, so it's the process and preparation that is our absolute focus against a very good Fijian side."

The full Samoa team is:

Jordan Lay, Elia Elia, Paul Alo-Emile, Chris Vui, Faatiga Lemalu, Piula Faasalele, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Kahn Fotualii, Tusiata Pisi, David Lemi (c), Reynold Lee-Lo, Kieron Fonotia, Alapati Leiua, Tim Nanai Williams.

Reserves: Seilala Lam, Nephi Leatigaga, James Lay, Galu Taufale, Vavae Tuilagi, Auvasa Falealii, D'Angelo Leuila, Ahsee Tuala.

The full Fiji team is:

Campese Ma'afu, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Manasa Saulo, Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Akapusi Qera ©, Nemani Nagusa, Henry Seniloli, Ben Volavola, Patrick Osborne, Jale Vatubua, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Vereniki Goneva, Timoci Nagusa.

Reserves: Sunia Koto, Joeli Veitayaki, Kalivati Tawake, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Viliame Mata, Frank Lomani, Eroni Vasiteri, Josua Tuisova