Island nations with a history of close contests meet again for their annual Pacific Test: not only does each side have a bevy of NRL stars, but they have drawn from the English Super League, Sika Manu as well as Frank “The Tank” Pritchard granted leave from Hull FC to captain their nations.
LAST TIME THEY MET
Rugby league has not seen two giant forwards soar like Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard did when the combination of the big units sent Jorge Taufua crashing over the sideline in the seventy eighth minute of this fixture last year, which clinched an 18-16 win for the Samoans. Josh McGuire was hooker for the Samoans, but he is now preparing to take on the Kiwis as a Kangaroo debutant. The constant from the match last season is that the forward packs are relatively similar, and if they even provide half of the excitement of 2015 then fans are in for an entertaining night.
Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu delivered an all time great captain’s performance in 2015, both leading from the front with a try, Pritchard ultimately on the winning end of the ledger. Granted leave by their Super League club Hull FC and missing out on an important club match in doing so, their return to Australia to lead their nations is sure to inspire them to reach great heights. Even better for the fans, they’ll play on the same side of the field, so expect the two to go head to head at one stage on Saturday night.
Tim Simona and David Fusitu’a normally aren’t in the number one jersey for their clubs but come against each other at fullback on Saturday, both looking to stamp their imprint on the game for the sake of their nation. The game could come down to whichever man can adjust to fullback quicker, seeing as the man at the back is seen as one of the most important players in the modern game.
Samoa’s forwards are too big, too strong and in too much good form to go past on Saturday: Tonga are still no easy beats and will definitely offer a challenge, and may even steal a win if they can put passion in to performance to cause an upset. The winner of the game will win the battle of the forwards first and put points on from there, and Samoa seem the most likely to do dominate the middle of the park.
Samoa by 6.
Tonga: 1 David Fusitu’a 2 Mosese Pangai 3 Solomone Kata 4 Vai Toutai 5 Michael Oldfield 6 Feleti Mateo 7 Samisoni Langi 8 Peni Terepo 9 Sione Katoa 10 Felise Kaufusi 11 Sika Manu 12 Tony Williams 13 Joe Ofahengaue Interchange: 14 Nafe Seluini 15 David Fifita 16 Patrick Kaufusi 17 Siosala Vave 18 Mickey Paea
Samoa: 1 Tim Simona 2 Antonio Winterstein 3 Kirisome Auva’a 4 Ricky Leutele 5 Matthew Wright 6 Fa’amanu Brown 7 Pita Godinet 8 Sam Kasiano 9 Kaysa Pritchard 10 Junior Paulo 11 Leeson Ah Mau 12 Frank Pritchard 13 Sauaso Sue Interchange: 14 Erin Clark 15 John Asiata 16 Raymond Faitala-Mariner 17 Sam Tagataese 18 Mason Lino