Fiji’s lock Leone Nakarawa in full cry against the Tongans at the ANZ Stadium in Suva. Photo: World Rugby
Fiji’s draw against Samoa at Bonney Field in Sacramento last week, on neutral soil, had only minimal impact on the World Rugby rankings with Samoa losing less than a tenth of a rating point and Fiji gaining the same.
This means the two Pacific Island rivals are now separated by only 0.55 points going into the final round of pool matches on Wednesday. Fiji is in tenth position behind Samoa who is ahead in the ninth spot.
The only way Fiji could beat their Pacific Island neighbor in the world rankings is to make it to the finals and beat Samoa in that match that is scheduled for Monday at the Swanguard Stadium in Burnaby, east of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Gabiriele Lovobalavu attacks against Samoa. Photo: World Rugby
A late penalty from Patrick Faapale gave Samoa a 30-30 draw against Fiji after they battled back in the Pacific Nations Cup.
The game in Sacramento looked to be heading Fiji’s way when they led 27-10, but just as they did against the Maori All Blacks, the Flying Fijians ran out of steam in the second half.
First-half tries from Leone Nakarawa, twice, and Metuisela Talebula gave Fiji a 17-10 lead at the break, with Paul Perez crossing for Samoa.
Manu Samoa perform the Siva Tau against the All Blacks in Apia. Photo: Planet Rugby
In their quest to end Samoa’s three-year rugby dominance, the Vodafone Flying Fijians will be making some changes to the team that defeated Tonga last week in this weekend’s PNC encounter against their Pacific rugby rival.
Fiji last defeated Samoa 36-18 at the 2011 PNC in Suva before Samoa dominated the show for the following three years defeating Fiji 27-7 at the 2011 RWC, 29-26 at the 2012 PNC in Japan and 18-13 in Suva last year.
Head coach John McKee said his team needed to lift their defensive game to counter the fiery Samoans.
“This will be another hard physical battle,” he said.