The Pacific Nations Cup is an international rugby union competition involving teams from the Pacific region. It is organized by the Pacific Rugby Union and includes national teams from countries such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and occasionally other nations like Japan and Canada. This year Japan will step into the fold and face all three of the Pacific Nations.
The tournament was first held in 2006 and was initially known as the IRB Pacific 5 Nations, featuring the teams of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Japan, and Canada. In 2011, it was renamed the Pacific Nations Cup, and since then, it has primarily involved the Pacific Island nations. This year the competition will serve as a great warm-up for the 2023 Rugby World Cup being held in France scheduled to begin in September.
The Squads this year for Tonga, Fiji and Samoa are as stacked as they have been in recent years with new additions of former internationals switching their allegiances to their Pacific nation.
Tonga’s coach Toutai Kefu named a 35-man squad headlined by some of the bigger names in professional Rugby. Former Australian international lock Adam Coleman who played 38 test caps for the Wallabies will be a great addition to the already strong Tonga squad which also features the likes of ex All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Charles Piatau while also having former Wallaby fullback Israel Folau to help bolster the backline.
Tonga’s first game of their 2023 campaign is against the Australian A side on the 15th of July, they will then begin the Pacific Nations cup play by facing Fiji on the 22nd of July.
Samoa, similarly to their Pacific brothers, have recruited a number of prestigious players that have past Rugby World Cup experience. Head Coach Seilala Mapusua
selected 3 ex-All Blacks Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua and Lima Sopoaga along with former Wallaby first five Christian Leali’ifano who has been playing for Moana Pasifika in the Super Rugby Pacific competition.
Samoa finished up their 2022 campaign with a total of 5 wins and 1 loss against a strong Italy side. They will look to continue their momentum into the World Cup later this year but first up they face Japan in their opening game of the Pacific Nations Cup.
Fiji’s squad naming is a big one with 45 total players being selected into the wider-training squad for 2023. Headlining the flying Fijians team naming are the 23
total Fijian Drua players who were included in this year’s squad. Fijian Drua had a groundbreaking year in the Super Rugby Pacific competition by making the playoffs in only their second season. The flying Fijians coach Simon Raiwalui stated that it was hard to pass on the Drua players because of their outstanding season.
“Making the quarter-finals in their second year only makes my selection of the team a daunting exercise. All those selected from overseas or locally, deserve to be in the Flying Fijians squad. I think it’s a great balance of players in the team. We know the different systems they play in, especially the Fijian Drua judging from the results that they have produced this year”
An overseas talent that was selected in the flying Fijians squad is fan favourite Semi Radradra who played at the 2019 Rugby World cup and quickly asserted himself as one of the best players in the world at that time, he will look to replicate this form for his country as they face Tonga in their opener for the Pacific Nations cup.
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Article written by:
Kace O’Neill & Vanessa Leota