Kefu rings changes as Tonga prefers the underdogs tag against Fiji

THE Ikale Tahi has named a start-studded team to face the Vodafone Flying Fijians in their Pacific Nations Cup battle at Teufaiva Park tomorrow.

Former Super Rugby flanker Jack Ram and Waikato robust centre Tevita Taufu’i are the only two changes from the powerful team that defeated Samoa in Apia last weekend.

Ram will replace former captain Nili Latu, who has opted out of the team because of family commitment while Taufu’i will earn his first cap replacing former New Zealand’s 7s and Crusaders rep Nafi Tuitavake, who also pulled out due to personal commitments. Former Wallabies number 8 Toutai Kefu who is now coaching the Tongan team has retained the core team that defeated Samoa in their quest to end the Flying Fijians’ fairytale run after the wins against Italy and Scotland recently.

Skipper Siale Piutau who is the elder brother of New Zealand’s Charles Piutau plays for Bristol Rugby in England — has been shifted from his usual second five position to man the number 13 jumper with Taufu’i running on the inside backs.

Kefu has opted for experience and class with almost all players that have played top level competition including hooker Paula Ngauamo and blindside flanker Dan Faleafawho have represented New Zealand under-20.

The side will also feature some top players who have made their mark in Super Rugby while bunch of the players are based in Europe.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand Kefu said the side preferred the underdogs tag against the Fijians.

“I think the position we’re in is good for the team — we’re a underdog and I think that’s when we perform the best so the boys are absolutely looking forward to this game and I think we will probably have our best performance.

“It’s actually worked out well — we’ve had two games (against Wales and Samoa) leading up to our hardest game,” he said.

“It’s kind of like the scenario we had in November (prior to beating Italy).

Fijian flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu said the Tongans would be tough after their win over Samoa.

He said they expected the Tongans to be strong and aggres sive compared with previous years.

“Playing against Tonga is always the same and physical but they have a very good and tougher Tongan team this year,” said Waqaniburotu.

The game kicks off at 3pm.

Tonga line-up:

Prop: Siegfried Fisi’ihoi(played 9 caps for the Chiefs in 2016), Hooker: Paula Ngauamo(former NZ U20 now plays for Stade Montoisem) , Prop: Siua Halanukonuka (former Saracens plays for Munakata Sanix Blues), Lock: Leva Fifita (Highlanders 2016),Lock: Sitiveni Mafi (Western Force also plays for Leincester Tigers and Castres), Flanker:Dan Faleafa (former NZ U20 and Auckland), Open side flanker: Jack Ram (former super rugby), Number 8: Valentino Mapapalangi(Colomiers), halfback: Sonatane Takulua (Manawatu), First five: Latiume Fosita (former Super Rugby Blues now plays for the Newcastle Falcons in the AVIVA Cup), Wing: Cooper Vuna, Second five: Tevita Taufui (Waikato), Centre: Siale Piutau (c) (Bristol Rugby), Wing: David Halaifonua )Gloucester), Fullback:’Atieli Pakalani (Former Australia 7s rep, Waratahs)

Bench: Suliasi Taufalele, Latu Talakai, Ben Tameifuna, Sione Tau, Mike Faleafa, Leon Fukofuka, Kali Hala, Kiti Taimani

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