Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Canada and the USA to host Fiji, Ireland and Tonga in June

Could Jebb Sinclair and DTH van der Merve face Tonga again in June?
With Samoa´s participation in the 2013 Pacific Nations Cup having been cancelled due to the Pacific Island nation taking the opportunity to play tests in South Africa, a hole has emerged in the  test match schedule of Fiji, Japan and Tonga. All four are Tier Two rugby playing nations despite Samoa being ranked 8th in the world, ahead of four members of the First Tier. Samoa, who defeated Wales in November 2012 will  have a great opportunity of facing sides on neutral territory that it can defeat as it will face Scotland on June 08 and Italy seven days later. The match against Scotland carries extra significance due to the two having been drawn together in Pool A for Rugby World Cup 2015 alongside South Africa and probably Japan and the USA (Asia 1 and Americas 2). South Africa will be heavy favorites to win the group while Scotland will have competition from Samoa and both Asia 1 and the Americas 2 will also be aiming high. 

Samoa´s participation in the South African based event this coming June is therefore trememdous for the Samoan players, coaches and the union. It is also good for North America as it means that Canada and the USA are likely to host both Fiji and Tonga at the same time. Ireland has already been confirmed as visiting North America in June and is expected to face the USA once and Canada twice. It will likely be a young Irish side due to the British and Irish Lions touring Australia at the same time. Ireland looks set to face the USA on June 08 and then Canada on June 15 and 22. Fiji and Tonga would each face the USA too as well as both playing against Japan in Japan which would mean a minimum of three tests for all of these Tier Two rugby nations. 

An altered Pacific Nations Cup competition is virtually assured of going ahead despite Samoa leaving. Both Canada and the USA are Pacific Nations with the issue being that for the competition to retain its Pacific values that the countries would both need to host Fiji and Tonga on their Pacific Coasts. As such venues such as Vancouver and Victoria in Canada loom as potential locations for Canada´s matches while the USA could make use of venues cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego which have all previously hosted top USA rugby occassions. As such the USA is likely to host Ireland in a venue such as Houston and Canada could well use the likes of Toronto and St. John´s. The CEO of Fiji Rugby, Manasa Baravilala told Fiji Live that Canada and the USA will be playing instead of Samoa. He confirmed that Fiji will play its two matches against the North American sides in North America and then travel to Japan to face the number one ranked Asian rugby nation. At the present point in time there is no indication of Japan facing either Canada or the USA and fitting it into the schedule appears unlikely.

With Ireland playing the USA on June 08 this means that Fiji is likely to face Canada on the same date and then play against the USA Eagles on June 15. Tonga, would therefore be likely to play against Japan first and then travel to North America. The matches will be ideal preperation for both Canada and the USA who will face each other, probably in July in home and away matches to determine who will be Americas 1 in Rugby World Cup 2015. The North American Champion will qualify directly for England 2015 in Pool D which also features France, Ireland, Italy and Europe 2 (probably Romania). It is arguably a tougher Pool than Pool B which will feature Americas 2 which is likely to be the loser of Canada v the USA. 

Probable Canada June Schedule
June 08 Canada v Fiji 
June 12 Canada v Ireland
June 22 Canada v Ireland
June 29 Canada v Tonga

Probable USA June Schedule
June 08 USA v Ireland
June 15 USA v Fiji
June 22 USA v Tonga

Canada and the USA have an interesting history against Fiji and Tonga. Canada prevented Tonga from reaching the Quarter Finals of Rugby World Cup 2011 by virtue of defeating Tonga in Whangarei. Tonga would go on to defeat both Japan and France meaning that because of Canada alone it would not be in the Quarter Finals. The victory was Canada´s third against Tonga in three meetings at Rugby World Cup´s. Canada faced Fiji at Rugby World Cup 1999 and 2007 losing on both occassions against much better Fiji teams than the current one. The USA faced Tonga in Rugby World Cup 2007 with the Pacific Islanders winning and Tonga was also successful in the most recent match between the sides as it won the match in 2012 in Colwyn Bay, Wales.

Canada v Tonga, RWC 2011

Canada v Fiji, RWC 2007

USA v Tonga, RWC 2007

USA v Tonga, 2012

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