27 Sep 2019

Sport: Tonga hope star can spark upset at Rugby World Cup

4:29 pm on 27 September 2019

Telusa Veainu will play his first test for Tonga in almost three years as the 'Ikale Tahi look to upset Argentina at the Rugby World Cup.

The 28-year-old Veainu has been named to start at fullback against Argentina on Saturday in Higashiosaka, in one of four changes from the team beaten 35-3 by England last weekend.

Telusa Veainu is competing in his first Rugby World Cup for Tonga.

Telusa Veainu played all four games for Tonga at the 2015 World Cup. Photo: AFP

Coach Toutai Kefu said their attack was poor against England and he was counting on Veainu to provide some much-needed spark out wide.

"We don't have many players like Telusa. He's high quality with a lot of x-factor so getting him back is vital, critical for us," he said.

"That's why we probably threw him straight in - we didn't want to drip-feed him game-time, we wanted to throw him straight in. He's an integral part of the team so we're very, very happy to have him back."

'Ikale Tahi captain Siale Piutau and coach Toutai Kefu.

'Ikale Tahi captain Siale Piutau and coach Toutai Kefu. Photo: RNZ/Leilani Momoisea

The other major change sees James Faiva given the nod at first five, after incumbent Kurt Morath and utility back Nafi Tuitivake were both ruled out for the remainder of the tournament due to injury.

"Disappointing for them. They both played really well, especially Nafi who came off the bench. Both of them would have started this week," Kefu said.

The former Wallaby said Faiva's strength was in his kicking game, which fitted perfectly with how they wanted to play against the Pumas.

"Keep the ball in front of the forwards, try and get that territory ascendancy but also the other things as well," Kefu said.

"Anyone who runs into his channel he's going to have to make his tackles. He's going to have to communicate well, which he does.

"The good thing about James is we've given him a fair bit of a run over the last 12 months, so he's got a bit of experience behind him now."

Tonga will be relying on James Faiva's kicking game vs Argentina.

Tonga will be relying on James Faiva's kicking game vs Argentina. Photo: AFP

Paula Ngauamo replaces Sosefo Sakalia at hooker after overcoming a calf injury that forced him to miss Tonga's last two tests against the All Blacks and England.

Hooker Paula Ngauamo (R) will make his comeback against Argentina.

Hooker Paula Ngauamo (R) will make his comeback against Argentina. Photo: RNZ/Leilani Momoisea

Malietoa Hingano comes in at centre, with captain Siale Piutau shifting to second-five and Cooper Vuna drops to the bench. David Halaifonua moved from fullback to the left wing to accommodate Veainu, with Viliami Lolohea swapping to the right.

Tonga probably need to win all three of their remaining games in Pool C, against Argentina, France and the United States, to have any chance of reaching the knockout rounds.

The 'Ikale Tahi famously beat France at the 2011 World Cup and Piutau said his team believed they were capable of causing another upset.

"We've got a great opportunity this week - you've seen what happened with Fiji and Uruguay. [Uruguay upset Fiji 30-27]

"There are chances there for big upsets and I think for us we can only focus on what we can do, and we've been training well, we've been together for 10-11 weeks," he said.

"Once the stars align, I think there's great opportunity for us to get a win here at the World Cup...so hopefully we can put in that performance that will bring that upset."

Kurt Morath kicks a penalty during Tonga's famous victory over France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Kurt Morath kicks a penalty during Tonga's famous victory over France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Piutau said the players backed themselves to hold their own against the Pumas up front, which would hopefully present them with opportunities out wide.

"That's also our strength as well: our scrum, our set-piece, our line-out. If we can match Argentina in the set-piece we will have a good platform for us to play in the backs," he said.

"We might not get many opportunities but compared to the game against England when we get those opportunities, I think we're going to have to take them, so it might be one or two but we've been trying to work on being clinical in those opportunities that we get."

Argentina are also chasing their first win in Japan after being pipped 23-21 by France first up but Toutai Kefu wasn't taking any solace from that performance.

"We've looked at Argentina all throughout the year and nothing really, nothing new come to our attention. They're a bloody good side, they're very fit, they're physical (and) their set-piece is of world class standard. Their strength is once they get that go-forward and momentum and offloading they're very hard to stop, so that's obviously an area we need to focus on."

Tonga and Argentina also faced off at the 2015 World Cup.

Argentina got the better of Tonga at the last World Cup. Photo: AFP

The Pumas thrashed the 'Ikale Tahi 45-16 in their only previous meeting, at the 2015 World Cup, and Kefu said his players would have to be at their very best to have a chance.

"Look we're under no illusions this is a world class team this Argentinean team.

"They're much better than what they showed the other night against France so we know how good they are and we have to be on our game to play well."

Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has also made four changes to his starting 15, with Julian Montoya, Tomas Lezana, Benjamin Urdapilleta and Santiago Carreras all promoted to the run-on team.

Tonga squad:

Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Paula Ngauamo, Ben Tameifuna, Sam Lousi, Halaleva Fifita, Sione Kalamafoni, Zane Kapeli, Maama Vaipulu, Sonatane Takulua, James Faiva, David Halaifonua, Siale Piutau (c), Malietoa Hingano, Viliami Lolohea, Telusa Veainu.

Reserves: Sosefo Sakalia, Vunipola Fifita, Ma'afu Fia, Sitiveni Mafi, Nasi Manu, Leon Fukofuka, Latiume Fosita, Cooper Vuna.

Argentina squad:

Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya, Juan Figallo, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera (c), Marcos Kremer, Tomas Lezana, Tomas Cubelli,

Benjamin Urdapilleta, Santiago Carreras, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Matias Orlando, Matías Moroni, Emiliano Boffelli.

Reserves: Agustín Creevy, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Javier Ortega Desio, Felipe Ezcurra, Nicolas Sanchez, Bautista Delguy.

When will Tonga play next at the Rugby World Cup?

Tonga are in the so-called "Pool of Death" with games against England, Argentina, France and the USA. It will be a tough challenge for the team in red.

So when are the games on?

Tonga have already played England, losing 35-3.

The second game is against Argentina on Saturday September 28 at 1.45pm Japanese Time. The game will be played at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium

That means the local timing of the match is:

Nuku'alofa: Saturday 5.45pm

Auckland: Saturday 4.45pm

Sydney: Saturday 2.45pm

Tonga will play its third pool match against France on Sunday October 6 at 4.45pm, Japanese Time.

Nuku'alofa: Sunday 8.45pm

Auckland: Sunday 8.45pm

Sydney: Sunday 6.45pm

A week later it will play USA on Sunday October 13 at 2.45pm, Japanese Time

Nuku'alofa: Sunday 6.45pm

Auckland: Sunday 6.45pm

Sydney: Sunday 4.45pm

When will the final of the Rugby World Cup be held?

The final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will be held in Yokohama on Saturday, November 2 at 6pm.

The kick-off in local times will be:

Nuku'alofa: Saturday 10pm

Auckland: Saturday 10pm

Sydney: Saturday 8pm