Tonga will look to bounce back following their opening game defeat to New Zealand when they take on Canada in Whangarei on Wednesday.
They face a Canada side who are yet to take to the field in this year’s tournament and both sides will fancy their chances of picking up a win. Tonga will be proud of their performance against New Zealand but will be looking to improve on the defensive frailties which were exposed by the All Blacks.
Canada are ranked 14th in the world but recently beat USA in a warm up game and if the Eagles’ performance against Ireland was anything to go by then Canada should be in good stead ahead of their first game. Incredibly Tonga have named a practically all new line up to the one which took to the field on Friday. That might give Canada the advantage in what should be a very tight game.
Canada didn’t win a game at the last World Cup but they will have their sights on an unlikely quarter final spot like in 1991. The two sides are familiar foes in the Rugby World Cup having met each other in 1987 and in 2003. The North Americans won both of these games but Canada know that Tonga will provide them with an extremely tough test. Four of Canada’s team played in the 2003 clash between the two sides including captain and veteran hooker Pat Riordan.
Players to Watch:
Tonga have changed their side from the defeat to New Zealand with all but four players being replaced. Kurt Morath moves from fly half to full back and he will be key to Tonga’s success. With the physical aspect of their play, they should win a lot of penalties and Morath needs to show good kicking abilities in what could be a very tight game. Also watch out for Fetu’u Vainikolo who is noted for his explosive ball carrying and extreme power.
Canada have some good players but Glasgow centre DTH van der Merwe is their most dangerous player. He is extremely quick and the South African born speedster will be a constant threat to the Tonga defence. Jamie Cudmore of Clermont has been around the block and will give the Canada pack an experienced head.
Prediction: It will be a very good game but very tight. Tonga will have lots of support and their superior power and physicality will be the key factors. Tonga to win by a few points but it could go either way.
Tonga: 15 Kurt Morath, 14 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Alipate Fatafehi, 11 William Helu, 10 Taniela Moa, 9 Thomas Palu, 8 Samiu Vahafolau, 7 Sione Vaiomounga, 6 Finau Maka (c), 5 Tukulua Lokotui, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Ephraim Taukafa, 1 Alisona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aloisio Ma’asi, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Viliami Ma’afu, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Viliame Iongi, 22 Alaska Taufa.
Canada: 15 James Pritchard, 14 Ciaran Hearn, 13 DTH Van Der Merwe, 12 Ryan Smith, 11 Phil Mackenzie, 10 Ander Monro, 9 Ed Fairhurst, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Chauncey O’Toole, 6 Adam Kleeberger, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Jason Marshall, 2 Pat Riordan (capt), 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Hamilton, 17 Scott Franklin, 18 Tyler Hotson, 19 Nanyak Dala, 20 Conor Trainor, 21 Sean White, 22 Nathan Hirayama.
Date: Wednesday, September 14
Venue: Northland Events Centre, Whangarei
Kick-off: 17:00 (05:00 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Stuart Terheege (England)