Sport: Revised format for Pacific Nations Cup

A revised format will be in place for next month‘s Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament, following the addition of Samoa and Georgia to the programme.

Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Georgia will each play two games in Suva between 9 and 16 June, with the overall winner determined by which team scores the most competition points.

The Flying Fijians have won the past three editions of the PNC and begin their title defence against Samoa, who will now take a full part in the annual competition, after their World Cup qualifying play-off was delayed by three weeks.

Fiji celebrate winning their third straight Pacific Nations Cup title. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Manu Samoa coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua said the tests against traditional rivals Fiji and Tonga are a good chance to blood new caps Matt Luamanu, Rodney Iona and Ed Fidow.

“We know we are having this PNC, two games in June in Fiji so we will have to give them a chance to play,” he said.

“But they‘ve put up their hand and want to play for the country so it‘s a good opportunity for us of having those experienced players.”

Samoa beat Tonga 30-10 in Apia during the 2016 Pacific Nations Cup. Photo: Renee McKay/SRU

Romania was originally scheduled to play tests against Fiji and Tonga but cancelled their Pacific tour after being found to have fielded ineligible players in the Rugby Europe Championship.

Fiji will also face the ‘Ikale Tahi at Churchill Park in Lautoka on June 23 in a standalone test.

The Flying Fijians prevailed 14-10 in Nuku‘alofa last year and Tonga coach Toutai Kefu doesn‘t believe they‘re far off the region‘s top-ranked side.

“Georgia and Fiji are ranked higher than us but I think whenever we play it‘s always been a really close game and can go either way – it could be a bounce of the ball in the end,” he said.

“With Samoa they‘re obviously down in the rankings but we‘re in the Pacific Islands, it‘s very competitive and it‘s always a close game.

“It could have gone either way last year with our World Cup qualifier against Samoa, we‘re fortunate we won in the end, so we‘re looking forward (to it),” Kefu said.

“They‘re three hard games and I think they‘re definitely games that we could win and that‘s how we‘re going to approach it.”

Tonga and Fiji square off in Nuku‘alofa. Photo: Oceania Rugby

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