Pacific rugby teams enter final count-down to Rugby World Cup
Island rugby teams have earnt a week off following a busy Pacific Nations Cup campaign, before launching their final Rugby World plans into action.
Pacific rugby teams will get some brief respite over the coming days before launching into the final count-down towards the Rugby World Cup.
Fiji won the Pacific Nations Cup title on Tuesday, beating Samoa in an action-packed decider, while Tonga also impressed on their way to a third-place finish.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
Fiji wrapped up an unbeaten PNC campaign by outlasting Manu Samoa in a free-flowing clash at the Swanguard Stadium. The teams had played out a 30-all draw in pool play a couple of weeks earlier and the rematch didn't disappoint with Fiji racing to a 17-3 lead, being overtaken early in the second spell before the men in white accelerated home with three more tries. Head coach John McKee says he saw some good and also plenty that can be done better.
JOHN MCKEE: As a coach I'd say look we should have stopped them on a few occassions and certainly I think when we're good we're very very good but we've obviously got areas of our game to work-on and need to be a lot sharper in not letting teams back into the game. Particularly as we get up to the World Cup we won't be able to score maybe as easily so we've got to make sure our defence is much better.
Manu Samoa coach Stephen Betham lamented his side's slow start to the match but says they've learnt plenty from their Nations Cup experience.
STEPHEN BETHAM: I think in the past couple of games we were very slow at starting. I think our systems and patterns were in place but unfortunately as individuals we fell off a couple of tackles and it really cost us today. I think we had five missed tackles and four tries were scored against us, because of simple missed one-on-one tackles. That's something we're going to work hard at in the next couple of weeks as we head into the World Cup.
All teams used the tournament as a chance to experiment with combinations and new faces as coaches narrowed down their options for their final 31-man squads for Rugby World Cup. Stephen Betham says the PNC certainly answered a few questions.
STEPHEN BETHAM: We know now who we're going to put the main focus on for the World Cup. Those who missed out they've really played well. Pretty much we're happy with their form building to the next World Cup - most of them are all young. That saying, we've killed two birds with one stone: not only have we answered questions on who we need to take to the World Cup but we've also built depth going forward to the next World Cup.
Tonga also showed progress over the past few weeks, putting together wins against Canada, USA and Japan following a narrow opening defeat by Fiji. Senior players stepped up for the 'Ikale Tahi team and High Performance Manager, Peter Harding expects performances to keep improving.
PETER HARDING: We know the quality of our group and we know that if we have enough time together we can win matches. This has just basically confirmed what we've long believed. We need time together, we need matches together and we go alright if we get those two aspects of it correct.
The Fiji, Samoa and Tonga squads now just over a week's break before returning to camp ahead of the World Cup. Fiji will play Canada early next month before meeting England in the World Cup's opening match. Samoa, who open their World Cup against the USA, have the honour of playing the Barbarians in the first rugby match at London's Olympic Stadium later this month. While Tonga will face Nottingham and Romania before kicking off their tournament hopes against Georgia.
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