The 2019 Pacific Nations Cup teams have named their wider training squads, as a final chance to look at players performance before finalizing their squads for the coveted Rugby World Cup in September.
Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga will be joined this year by Japan, Canada, and the USA to compete for the World Rugby 2019 Pacific Nations Cup. Now a premier competition, not only due to the investment and improved facilities, but for the caliber and quality of competing teams …..and so do the ‘bragging rights’.
Pacific Nations Cup schedule
July 27 #Japan vs #Fiji at Kamaishi
Aug 3 Japan vs #Tonga at Hanazono
Aug 10 Japan vs #USA at Suva#BraveBlossoms #rugbyjp @rugbyJPN_ @RugbyTON_ @rugbySAM_ @RugbyFJI_ @RugbyUSA_ @RugbyCanada pic.twitter.com/vPToSl24SP
— Rich Freeman (@FreemanrugbyJPN) December 17, 2018
While more so in this World Cup year, due also to the confidence that each side has; counting on recent results such as, Fiji beating France and the success of Major League Rugby in the States. That should rub off on the performances for those sides, plus the energy put in for this important contest.
2019 Pacific Nations Cup two pool format
Two pools will exist for this year’s tournament. The winner of the PNC will be determined by the team with the highest number of points, so tries, winning bonus points and potentially, losing bonus points, could help define the outright Cup winner.
The Pacific Nations Cup is a strategic initiative tournament designed to provide players from the participating unions with exposure to the rigours of international competition, in a condensed tournament format.
Fans and observers will be watching with heightened interest now. Results in July and August will surely pay-off come September and October at the World Cup.
But for this upcoming series, the focus is on the opponent right in front of you!
As the opening weekend on July 27 approaches, players begin to assemble and turn their focus from domestic, to International Rugby.
Meet the 2019 Pacific Nations Cup teams
Fiji – Highest Ranked Side
Fiji has named a star-studded side on paper which includes Semi Radradra, Leone Nakarawa, and Josua Tuisova. Their World Cup preparation has already been planned, with games against the Maori All Blacks on July 13 in Suva, and a return match in Rotorua a week later.
Those meetings are the very best warm-ups. The Maori have great players and will size up Fiji in a way which head coach John McKee will benefit from. Just as his side will when they face Japan in Kamaishi – giving players experience in the Asian nation, ahead of the RWC.
Fiji Airways Flying Fijians head coach John McKee has put together a strong coaching staff as they prepare the team for the upcoming Maori All Blacks matches, Pacific Nations Cup and the Rugby World Cup in September.https://t.co/xw1IxGYIU5 pic.twitter.com/6mSFfWFlKG
— Fiji Sun (@sun_fiji) July 3, 2019
Flying Fijians Squad
Props: Leeroy Atilifo, Campese Ma’afu, Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo, Luke Tagi, Kalivati Tawake, Joeli Veitayaki
Hookers: Mesulame Dolokoto, Samuel Matavesi, Tuvere Vugakoto
Locks: Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Api Ratuniyarawa, Tevita Ratuva, Albert Tuisue
Backrow: Johnny Dyer, Semi Kunatani, Viliame Mata, Nemani Nagusa, Mosese Voka, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato
Halfbacks: Frank Lomani, Nikola Matawalu, Henri Senioli, Serupepeli Vularika
Flyhalves: Ben Volavola, Alivereti Veitokani
Centres: Levani Botia, Sevanaia Galala, Semi Radradra, Jale Vatubua
Utility Back: Josh Matavesi
Wingers: Vereniki Goneva, Filipo Nakosi, Waisea Nayacalevu, Patrick Osbourne, Eroni Sau, Josua Tuisova
Fullbacks: Kini Murimurivalu, Seta Tuicuvu
Japa Brave Blossums
Jamie Joseph has named 15 players from the RWC squad that defeated South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. That core group have developed over the last four years, and the PNC will be a terrific warm up before the proud side kick-off the RWC against Russia.
In 2019, they are bolstered by Pacific Islands players, together with Kiwis and South African’s who each have all been naturalized in the Japanese culture. Included in the squad for their ability to add to the squad. The 2019 group including the dynamic duo of Fumiaki Tanaka and Amanaki Mafi who will be a threat to every opponent during the series.
Japan captain Michael Leitch targeting Pacific Nations Cup game against Fiji on July 27 for long-awaited return to action#MichaelLeitch #RWC2019 #rugbyjp #rugbyunitedhttps://t.co/DthRgVWYes
— Kyodo News Sports (@kyodo_sports_en) June 25, 2019
As the Brave Blossums look to host the World Rugby event, practice matches at RWC stadiums against PNC opponents is a positive for the September event. The enthusiasm and enjoyment that Asian fans show when watching their national team, will be the best motivation for Japan to challenge for the 2019 Pacific Nations Cup title.
Keita Inagaki, Yusuke Kizu, Jiwon Koo, Isileli Nakajima, Masataka Mikami, Hiroshi Yamashita, Koki Yamamoto, Asaeli Ai Valu, Takuya Kitade, Atsushi Sakate, Shota Horie, Kosuke Horikoshi, Samuel Anise, Luke Thompson, Grant Hattingh, Wimpie van der Walt, Uwe Helu, James Moore, Hendrik Tui, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Shunsuke Nunomaki, Michael Leitch (captain), Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Kaito Shigeno, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yutaka Nagare, Yu Tamura, Rikiya Matsuda, Kenki Fukuoka, Ataata Moeakiola, Lomano Lava Lemeki, Yusuke Kajimura, William Tupou, Ryoto Nakamura, Timothy Lafaele, Kotaro Matsushima, Jamie Henry, Ryuji Noguchi, Ryohei Yamanaka.
United States Eagles
The Team USA side will bring a highly confident group to the South Seas. Just completing the second season of Major League Rugby, it will have many of the group performing at levels higher than ever.
Head Coach Gary Gold has taken advantage of that. His squad is rich on experience. Naming 13 players in the wider 50-man squad, who have previous Rugby World Cup experience.
To maximize that quality, and to add a variety of skills, Gold has named three ‘sevens stars’ in his Pacific Nations Cup squad. Martin Iosefo, Ben Pikelmann, and Madison Hughes. They will boost the Americans against their high performing work ethic and ability to perform in high-pressure match conditions.
USA Manager Dave Hodge, speaking to World Rugby media, said “While the weeks and months to follow will be filled with tireless work, I’m confident that our coaches and staff will prepare these men not only for the Rugby World Cup but, four crucial match-ups ahead of that in the Pacific Nations Cup and our final cross-border test match with Canada in Vancouver.”
USA Pacific Nations Squad
Forwards: David Aims’, Eric Fry, Olive Kilifi, Titi Lamositele, Paul Mullen, Paddy Ryan, Chance Wenglewski, Dylan Fawsitt, Mike Sosene-Feagai, James Hilterbrand, Kapeli Pifeleti, Joe Taufete’e, Nate Brakeley, Nick Civetta, Ben Landry, Samu Manoa, Greg Peterson, Malon Al-Jiboori, Cam Dolan, Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, Hanco Germishuys, Tony Lamborn, Ben Pinkelman, John Quill, Psalm Wooching.
Backs: Nate Augspurger, Shaun Davies, Ruben de Haas, AJ MacGinty, Will Magie, Bryce Campbell, Martin Iosefo, Paul Lasike, Thretton Palamo, Marcel Brache, Will Hooley, Madison Hughes, Gannon Moore, Blaine Scully, Mike Te’o.
Dino Waldren, Siaosi Mahoni, Louis Stanfill, Ross Deacon, Riekert Hattingh, David Tameilau, Mike Petri, Ben Cima, Ryan Matyas, Tim Maupin.
Former North Harbour coach Steve Jackson is going with more locally groomed players for the 2019 Pacific Nations Cup, with only five players from the 2015 Rugby World Cup named.
HSBC World Sevens Series ‘Rookie of the Year’ nominee Johnny Vaili has been rewarded with his performance in local rugby, with a call-up to the big time. Western Force Global Rapid RugbyrRepresentatives flanker Henry Showers, five-eighth AJ Alatimu and center Henry Taefu have also earned a place in the group.
https://t.co/joGbsvUsX7 Samoa call on new names for Pacific Nations Cup #USARugby #rugby #rugbyunited
— Tier 2 & 3 Rugby (@Tier2RugbyForum) June 25, 2019
One notable omission was prop Sakaria Taulofa, who is being reported as being ‘really disappointed’ for missing out. It shows how places are hard to secure, especially when the incentive for players is a shot on the International stage.
Like Fiji, one fixture will be held in the RWC host nation. So in preparation, Manu Samoa will face Tonga in Apia on 27 July in the first round of the PNC.
Forwards: Seilala Lam, Raymond Niuia, Elia Elia, Motu Matuu, James Lay, Jordan Lay, Hisa Sasagi, Paul Alo-Emile, Logovii Mulipola, Alofaaga Sao, Kane Leaupepe, Chris Vui, Senio Toleafoa, Teofilo Paulo, Jack Lam, Faifili Leavave, Henry Stowers, Piula Faasalele, Afaesetiti Amosa, Tofatuimoana Solia.
Backs: Dwayne Polataivao, Peleifofoga Cowley, Auvasa Falealii, AJ Alatimu, Ulupano Seuteni, Kieron Fonotia, Henry Taefu, Alapati Leiua, Reynold Lee Lo, Ahsee Tuala, JJ Taulagi, Johnny Vailim, Belgium Tuatagaloa
Remaining teams preparing for 2019 Pacific Nations Cup
Canada has a strong squad for the PNC, headed by Chiefs standout Tyler Adron, and evergreen DTH Van der Merwe. Filled with good, solid rugby players that will put their all into the five clashes.
Most of their Sevens Series stars have not been included and will be out to gain qualification to the Olympic Games, at the North American Regional Qualifier this weekend in Georgetown, Cayman Islands.
Tonga, on the other hand, has not yet released their squad list. The proud nation will want to be at full strength for the battle for Pacific Islands supremacy, even though with many offshore players, bringing this group together for head coach Tautai Kefu, is a challenge in itself.
The Ikale Tahi have good preparation heading into the PNC. A test match against the All Blacks scheduled later this year, along with the Pasifica Challenge double-header. This is where Tonga play Fiji, with Samoa playing the NZ Heartland XVs on Eden Park.
For Tonga, Canada, and for all six nations, every one of these games will be critical build-up stages, towards the Rugby World Cup. Last Word on Rugby wishes them the very best.
See the full July Internal rugby calendar here.
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