Pakalani to debut for Tonga against Samoa

Former Australian sevens representative 'Atieli Pakalani will make his test rugby debut for Tonga in one of three changes to the starting side to face Samoa in Nuku'alofa tomorrow.

The 27-year-old will start at fullback, with David Halaifonua moved to the right wing, Nafi Tuitivake shifted to centre and captain Siale Piutau selected at second five, in place of Viliami Tahitu'a.

Super Rugby duo Siegfried Fisi'ihoi and Siua Halanukonuka also get a start in a beefed up front row, replacing Ben Tameifuna and Latu Talakai, for the opening match of the Pacific Nations Cup, which doubles as a Rugby World Cup qualifier.

Former Blues flanker Jack Ram has been named on the bench, after missing the 24-6 defeat by Wales two weeks ago through injury.

Saturday's match is a must win for the 'Ikale Tahi in their bid for an automatic Rugby World Cup qualifying spot.

It will also be the first test match hosted in Tonga for eight years following upgrades to Teufaiva Stadium.

Tonga team:

Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Paula Ngauamo, Siua Halanukonuka, Leva Fifita, Sitiveni Mafi, Dan Faleafa, Nili Latu, Valentino Mapapalangi, Sonatane Takulua, Latiume Fosita, Cooper Vuna, Siale Piutau (c) Nafi Tu'itavake, David Halaifonua, 'Atieli Pakalani.

Bench: Suliasi Taufalele, Latu Talakai, Ben Tameifuna, Jack Ram, Mike Faleafa, Leon Fukofuka, Kali Hala, Tevita Taufui


Photo: PHOTOSPORT 'Atieli Pakalani, playing here for the Crusaders, will make his test debut for Tonga against Samoa.