12 Jun 2019

Sport: 'Pasifika Challenge' to boost Rugby World Cup prep

11:06 am on 12 June 2019

Samoa, Fiji and Tonga will take part in an international rugby double header in Auckland later this year as the Pacific teams fine-tune their preparations for the World Cup in Japan.

Manu Samoa will face the New Zealand Heartland XV in the opening fixture at Eden Park on 31 August, in what is being dubbed as the "Pasifika Challenge II: The Road to Japan", before the Flying Fijians face-off against the 'Ikale Tahi.

Kane Le'aupepe offloads during Manu Samoa's test against Georgia in November.

Manu Samoa will face a New Zealand Heartland XV Photo: Facebook/Georgian Rugby

It will be the final pre-World Cup test for Fiji, who will also face the Māori All Blacks home and away next month, while Samoa take on the Wallabies in Sydney on 7 September before departing for Japan, the same night Tonga will take on the All Blacks in Hamilton.

All three regional rivals will also take part in an expanded Pacific Nations Cup alongside Japan, Canada and the United States, which kicks off at the end of July.

Timoci Nagusa heads for the tryline against Ireland in 2017.

Fiji will be competing in the Pasifika Challenge for the first time. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

In addition to funding the teams' participation in the Pasifika Challenge and covering the cost of player allowances for the week, event organisers Left Field Live - an Australian based sports rights and entertainment company - have offered an added financial incentive based on the final attendance figures, to be split evenly between the Samoa, Fiji and Tonga Rugby Unions.

The inaugural Pasifika Challenge was held in 2017 with Wales beating Tonga 24-6 and the All Blacks thumping Manu Samoa 78-0.

Halfback Sonatane Takulua will be a key player for Tonga against Wales.

Tonga halfback Sonatane Takulua fends off a Welsh defender during the inaugural Pasifika Challenge in 2017 Photo: AFP

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