The Pacific Nations Cup sees six nations collide as the title of Pacific champions goes up for grabs once again.
This year’s instalment promises to be the most hotly contested Pacific Cup yet, with Japan, Samoa, Canada, America and Tonga all capable of attaining glory in their respective pools.
Here, we take a look at the Round 1 fixtures as Canada, Japan, Samoa and Tonga get their campaigns underway.
|Asia/Pacific Conference Fixtures|
|Round 1||Canada||Japan||June 7|
|Round 2||USA||Japan||June 14|
|Round 3||USA||Canada||June 21|
|Pacific Islands Conference Fixtures|
|Round 1||Samoa||Tonga||June 7|
|Round 2||Fiji||Tonga||June 14|
|Round 3||Fiji||Samoa||June 21|
Canada vs. Japan (live stream available in Canada on TSN Live Player)
Relative newcomers to the competition, Canada’s opening Asia/Pacific conference match sees them take on Japan in British Columbia, with both sides looking to kick off with a victory.
The Japanese have showed vast improvement over the years, and dealt Canada its only loss of the tournament last year as the Pacific Nations Cup slipped from its grasp.
Ayumu Goromaru was the star of the show that day, scoring all of Japan’s points in a 16-13 triumph as Fiji took the title.
With Japan sitting 12th in the world rankings and Canada 15th, per IRB, it’s bound to be a tight affair at the Swangard Stadium. Canada coach Kieran Crowley said that a victory would be great for the nation’s rugby—as reported by The Vancouver Sun:
What would a good result mean? It would mean another stride. Japan has stated they want to get to the top 10 and they’re on the right track to do that. We want to be the same as them and, to do that, you have to win these sorts of games against teams above you in the rankings. So it would not only help us from a team perspective as far as getting confidence within the team, but it would also help from an awareness perspective in places like Vancouver, right across Canada and on the world stage. It just helps expose rugby if you’re winning.
A win would also see Canada half way to the Asia/Pacific title, with just the Americans left to play on its quest for glory.
Though the Japanese harbor some fine players in their ranks, home advantage will be crucial heading into Saturday’s match and the Canadians’ power may just see them sneak over the line.
Prediction: Canada to win a very close match
Samoa vs. Tonga (no live stream available)
The start of the Pacific Islands conference sees Samoa take on Tonga in the Samoan capital, Apia, on Saturday.
With Samoa missing last year’s tournament to compete in the South African quandrangular tournament, the players will be determined to make up for lost time and claim the title that was theirs in 2012.
It was the island's second Pacific Nations triumph, having previously won the 2010 tournament, while Tonga are still chasing trophy No. 1.
Arguably the strongest side in the competition, Samoa are ranked 9th in the world, though its recent loss against Japan suggested that the team will have its work cut out in this year’s Pacific Nations Cup.
The Japanese romped to a 33-14 victory in Tokyo, its first win over the Samoans at home in 15 years, per Brett Gosper:
It was a stunning victory for Japan, but it highlighted how much improvement Samoa need to make if the team is to be force in Rugby World Cup 2015.
Tonga, meanwhile, come into the Pacific Nations Cup off the back of a disappointing November tour.
Mana Otai’s side recorded defeats against both France and Wales on its 2013 tour, per IRB, and rarely got going in either fixture.
If Tonga does manage to bring its A-game on Saturday, then it would still take a lot to dispose of the Samoans, who will be hot favourites for tournament glory this year.
Prediction: Samoa to inflict a heavy defeat on the Tongans