PNC provides Rugby World Cup preview

(IRB.COM) Friday 25 June 2010
 
 PNC provides Rugby World Cup preview
John Kirwan coached Japan at the RWC 2007 and believes the ANZ PNC 2010 will provide vital preparation for RWC 2011

The ANZ Pacific Nations Cup reaches its climax this weekend at Apia Park in Samoa with an extra dimension for the final round of matches.

Both the Tonga v Japan and Fiji v Samoa matches at Apia Park on 26 June will be streamed live on the IRB website and a new name will be etched on the PNC for the first time this year.

But as part of all four sides' preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2011, the tournament's final two matches will also preview next year's tournament in New Zealand.

Fiji and Samoa are both in Pool D alongside current world champions South Africa, Wales and IRB Nations Cup champions Namibia, whilst Tonga and Japan are in Pool A with hosts New Zealand, France and Churchill Cup finalists Canada.

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Japan head coach John Kirwan is aware of the importance of recording a victory in their final match against Tonga with a view to gaining a mental edge over their opponents ahead of the RWC.

"We are not months away from the Rugby World Cup but 12 matches and this starts with the Tonga match this weekend," said the former All Black.

"The PNC tournament has been fantastic for us especially in building a core ground for the players in preparation for the World Cup.

"We have no thoughts of winning the competition, we just want to go out there and give a big performance on the field and learn more of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition for next year."

Kirwan has made just one change from the side who beat Samoa with prop Hisateru Hirashima replacing Naoki Kawamata and following their 31-23 victory over Samoa last weekend the Cherry Blossoms are on a high and can still be crowned PNC 2010 champions.

Tonga have been unlucky in both of their PNC matches, losing by one point to Samoa in the opening round and by three to Fiji last weekend having led 31-10 at half time.

Backline coach Siue Taumalolo says they have worked hard this week and will want to win their last match of the tournament as well as avenge the 21-19 defeat they suffered to Japan in 2009.

"I'm really confident with these player as they are very young and energetic so we are hoping to give Japan a good run," said Taumalolo.

"We have to shut down the Japan players before they are able to run with the ball. They have some very experienced players especially their scrum half who is the main link to their backline moves."

Fiji v Samoa

Fiji are the only side to have won both their opening two matches and will be crowned ANZ PNC 2010 champions should they record victory over Samoa to maintain their 100% record in the tournament.

Head coach Samu Domoni has made several changes from the team that beat Tonga 41-38 last weekend including former Fiji sevens skipper Mosese Volavola replacing Kelevi Ketedromo at number eight.

William Saukuru starts on the wing in place of Nemani Nadolo and Ropate Ratu takes over on the other wing from Malakai Bakaniceva, being replaced in the centre by Sireli Naqelevuki who will play alongside Iliesa Keresoni.

Domoni believes that despite the changes his side are ready to take the title for the first time.

"These players are seasoned footballers and there is no problem changing the players around because they can all play," said Domoni.

"We do not want to give Samoa an advantage during the game because it is a very important match for us. We are looking forward to a physical and entertaining rugby game."

Samoa have also made several changes following their defeat to Japan with Kane Thompson replacing Filipo Levi in the second row and Sevens star Ofisa Treviranus starting at flanker following his excellent performance as a replacement last weekend.

Uale Mai is also handed a start at scrum half in place of Junior Poluleuligaga and George Pisi replaces the injured Gavin Williams in the centre.

Samoa coach Fuimaono Tafua believes Fiji will be their toughest opposition yet in this year's tournament but believes his side can bounce back from their defeat last week.

"I know Fiji is best at the moment, but we will play a good game. We are looking to give Fiji a good run because we need to lift our performance from last week," added Titimaea.

You can watch the final ANZ Pacific Nations Cup matches live and on-demand on the IRB website, as well as watching highlights from the previous rounds.