PHILADELPHIA, PA – Friday is National Cousins Day, National Drive-Thru Day and National Tequila Day. If you have a cousin who works at a drive-thru liquor store, this is your day. For the rest of us there is rugby – specifically the #PNC2015 – and I’ve got PNC Preview and a few questions answered by USA Rugby Head Coach Mike Tolkin.
All 3 matches of Round 2 of the Pacific Nations Cup are happening Friday night. With the World Cup so close, winning the tournament is not the only goal for the sides playing. Still, for the individual players looking to impress coaches and for team culture and morale before the autumn’s big show, it is tough to say winning doesn’t matter.
For Americans at least, the matches will be on ESPN3. While there are always criticisms for viewers to make of directors, the coverage last week was pretty good. Dallen Stanford and Dan Power are high-energy and honest and seem to enjoy the game.
Fiji v Samoa (Bonney Field, Sacramento, CA)
Samoa simply had too much in attack last week for the USA in the first half. Alesana Tuilagi was monstrous and TJ Ioane was elusive in close quarters. They are both back to take on Fiji. Fiji has made some important changes, like not starting the try scorer, Henry Seniloli, and try creator, Lepani Botia, from the beastly try below.
As good as that try was, a bigger influence than counter attacking in that match was scrummaging. It is unlikely Fiji will be able to pressure Samoa at scrum time like they pressured Tonga, and that pressure was an important part of Fiji coming away with the win.
This is Samoa’s game and, likely, tournament to lose.
Fiji starting lineup:1) Peni Ravai, 2) Sunia Koto, 3) Manasa Saulo, 4) Api Ratuniyarawa, 5) Leone Nakarawa, 6) Peceli Yato, 7) Akapusi Qera (c), 8) Sakiusa Matadigo, 9) Nemia Kenatale, 10) Ben Volavola, 11) Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12) Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 13) Vereniki Goneva, 14) Waisea Nayacalevu, 15) Metuisela Talebula
Reserves: 16) Viliame Veikoso, 17) Campese Maafu, 18) Taniela Koroi, 19) Nemia Soqeta, 20) Malakai Ravulo, 21) Henry Seniloli, 22) Josh Matavesi, 23) Napolioni Nalaga
Samoa starting lineup:1) Sakaria Taulafo, 2) Motu Matu’u, 3) Anthony Perenise, 4) Teofilo Paulo, 5) Faatiga Lemalu, 6) TJ Ioane, 7) Jack Lam, 8) Vavau Tuilagi, 9) Pele Cowley, 10) Michael Stanley, 11) Alesana Tuilagi, 12) Johnny Leota, 13) Paul Perez, 14) Alofa Alofa, 15) Faatoina Autagavaia
Reserves: 16) Ma’atulimanu Leiataua, 17) Viliamu Afatia, 18) Jake Grey, 19) Iosefa Tekori 20) Faifili Levave, 21) Vavao Afemai, 22) Patrick Faapale, 23) Faleniu Iosi
Canada v Tonga (Swangard Stadium, Burnaby, British Columbia)
Expect the Tongan game plan to feature a lot of pick-and-gos. That was the tactic that the Tongans used against Fiji to build pressure, and there is little reason to think it would be less effective against the Canadians.
Against Japan, Canada showed plenty of willing runners, but not many incisive moves. They were the only side in Round 1 not to score a try. From the tee, the Canadians have a powerful weapon in the boot of Gordon McRorie – he has some serious range – and Tonga did not kick well last week. Latiume Fosita, who had a couple of important misses, has been moved to the bench. Kurt Morath is the expected goal kicker this week.
This match will likely come down to which side has the better day of kicking, both from hand and the tee. A tight Tongan victory seems likely.
Canada starting lineup:1) Hubert Buydens, 2) Aaron Carpenter, 3) Andrew Tiedemann, 4) Jon Phelan, 5) Brett Beukeboom, 6) Richard Thorpe, 7) John Moonlight, 8) Tyler Ardron, captain, 9) Gordon McRorie, 10) Liam Underwood, 11) DTH Van Der Merwe, 12) Connor Braid, 13) Ciaran Hearn, 14) Jeff Hassler, 15) Matt Evans
Reserves: 16) Benoit Piffero, 17) Djustice Sears-Duru, 18) Doug Wooldridge, 19) Callum Morrison, 20) Kyle Gilmour, 21) Phil Mack, 22) Nathan Hirayama, 23) Phil Mackenzie
Tonga starting lineup: 1) Tevita Mailau, 2) Elvis Taione, 3) Halani Aulika, 4) Steve Mafi, 5) Joe Tuineau, 6) Hale T Pole, 7) Nili Latu, 8) Viliami Ma‘afu, 9) Sonatane Takulua, 10) Kurt Moarath, 11) Fetu‘u Vainikolo, 12) Viliami Tahitua, 13) Sione Piukala, 14) Telusa Veainu, 15) Vungakoto Lilo
Reserves: 16) Sosefo Sakalia, 17) Alisona Taumalolo, 18) Sila Puafisi, 19) Uili Kolo‘ofa‘i, 20) Viliami Fihaki, 21) Sosefo Ma‘ake, 22) Latiume Fosita, 23) Otulea Katoa
USA v Japan (Bonney Field, Sacramento, CA)
Eddie Jones of Japan is fielding a pretty different side against the Eagles than the one that beat Canada 20-6 last week. The biggest absence for Japan will be Ayumu Goromaru. He was the anchor for Japan at 15, and he kicked their points. Fujita moves from the wing to fullback, and he has shown his ability on attack. In defense, Canadian attackers were able to get past him without too much trouble when they had a little space. If the US has some counter attacking opportunities, Fujita’s tackling could be match-deciding.
For the US, Mike Petri is back in the 9 jersey while Andrew Durutalo starts in the back row. This is Petri’s 50th cap for the Eagles – and say what you want – that’s an incredible achievement. AJ MacGinty gets his second start [and cap] at fly half. The first try for Samoa came from a poor kick from MacGinty that created a nightmarish scenario for the USA defense. We’ll see if that was just jitters.
There was evidence that MacGinty can kick well and that the Eagles have personnel suited to a game plan with more kicking.
USA starting lineup: 1) Eric Fry, 2) Zach Fenoglio, 3) Titi Lamositele, 4) Hayden Smith, 5) Cameron Dolan, 6) Scott LaValla, 7) Andrew Durutalo, 8) Danny Barrett, 9) Mike Petri, 10) AJ MacGinty, 11) Takudzwa Ngwenya, 12) Thretton Palamo, 13) Seamus Kelly, 14) Blaine Scully, 15) Chris Wyles (C)
Reserves: 16 ) Phil Thiel, 17) Nick Wallace, 18) Chris Baumann, 19) Louis Stanfill, 20) Alastair McFarland, 21) Shalom Suniula, 22) Folau Niua, 23) Zack Test
Japan starting lineup: 1) Keita Inagaki, 2) Takeshi Kizu, 3) Kensuke Hatakeyama (c), 4) Hitoshi Ono, 5)Luke Thompson, 6) Justin Ives, 7) Michael Broadhurst, 8) Koliniasi Holani, 9) Keisuke Uchida, 10) Harumuchi Tatekawa, 11) Akihito Yamada, 12) Ryohei Yamanaka, 13) Kotaro Matsushima, 14) Karne Hesketh, 15) Yoshikazu Fujita
Reserves: 16) Hiroki Yuhara, 17) Hisateru Hirashima, 18) Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19) Kazuhiko Usami, 20) Tsuyoshi Murata, 21) Atsushi Hiwasa, 22) Kosei Ono, 23) Tim Bennetts
TOLKIN Q&A: I was able to get a few questions about the Samoa match and tonight’s tilt answered, despite the short week for the Eagles:
JF: How do you rate Shalom Suniula’s play? Specifically, do you think he was slow to get to the breakdown in the first half?
TOLKIN: Shalom is still getting comfortable at the 9 position. When his instincts become more ingrained he will flow more and more freely. At present he sometimes gets caught analyzing a bit tooling whereas when he lets his instincts take over, he’s a dangerous player.
JF: How do you rate MacGinty’s play? Will he be given more game time to get comfortable at the international level? The patterns of play seemed different with MacGinty at 10. Is that because of his strengths or more down to other things (timing, facing Samoan again in the World Cup, etc.)?
TOLKIN: AJ needs game-time to improve as a play-maker. He has a load of talent, ability and game sense, now he just needs to work on improving technical aspects of his game at 10 as well as reading defenses and organizing the attack from the play-maker’s position.
JF: Did Lamositele earn the right to start against Japan with his play on Saturday?
TOLKIN: Yes, Titi played a solid game as a reserve and gets the start vs Japan.
JF: Fry went all 80 minutes, and Chris Baumann did not get onto the field. Was that the plan heading into the match?
TOLKIN: We had planned on Fry going late, but not the full game; however, he was having a very good match and was still effective very late so we kept him in as we pushed to win the game.
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