New caps abound in Fiji, Samoa rugby teams for PNC
SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Center Sevanaia Galala will make his Fiji test debut against Samoa in the first round of rugby's Pacific Nations Cup.
Galala, who plays for French club Brive, will start at inside center on Saturday in a midfield combination with Jale Vatubua.
Three other players are in line for debuts from the bench. Hooker and former Fiji Under-20 captain Ratu Veremalua Vugakoto, prop Eroni Mawi and sevens representative Alivereti Veitokani are among the reserves.
Flanker Viliame Mata will be in the test starting XV for the first time.
Meanwhile, three new caps have been named by Samoa for the match at Suva's National Stadium.
Harlequins back-rower Mat Luamanu and Bordeaux winger Ed Fidow are in the starting lineup, and Western Force flyhalf Rodney Iona is on the bench.
Captain Chris Vui said Samoa came together well despite a short preparation.
"For the short amount of time, the boys have been working really hard to form combinations and set new structures for the game plan against Fiji," Vui said. "It's difficult with the short get-together, but everyone is doing their part to be their best come game day.
"They have a dangerous pack but we're up for the challenge. The game plan is really simple due to the time together, but we have a big defensive mindset to stop the Fijians offloading and stopping them early before they get their heads up and momentum with the ball."
Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu, Benito Masilevu, Jale Vatubua, Sevanaia Galala, Verniki Goneva, Ben Volavola, Henry Seniloli; Akapusi Qera (captain), Viliame Mata, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Leone Nakawara, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Manasa Saulo, Talemaitoga Tuapati, Campese Ma'afu. Reserves: Ratu Vere Vugakoto, Eroni Mawi, Ropate Rinakama, Sikeli Nabou, Nemani Nagusa, Serupepeli Vularika, Alivereti Veitokani, Timoci Nagusa.
Samoa: Ah See Tuala, Ed Fidow, Rey Lee-Lo, Alapati Leiua, Sinoti Sinoti, Tusi Pisi, Melani Matavao; Mat Luamanu, Jack Lam, Piula Faasalele, Chris Vui (captain), Josh Tyrell, Paul Alo-Emile, Motu Matu'u, Logovii Mulipola. Reserves: Seilala Lam, Jordan Lay, Viliamu Afatia, Joe Tekori, T.J. Ioane, Dwayne Polataivao, Rodney Iona, Paul Perez .