Manu Samoa make three changes for Tonga match

Tim Nanai Williams is back among three changes to the Manu Samoa starting line-up for Saturday's Pacific Nations Cup opener against Tonga in Nuku'alofa.

In the only change to the backline, the Chiefs utility replaces D'Angelo Leuila at fullback after missing last week's 19-17 defeat by Wales in Apia through injury.

Head coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia has also had to make some enforced changes in the front row, with Piacenza prop Nephi Leatigaga earning his first test start in place of the injured Viliamu Afatia, while veteran Census Johnston remains unavailable.

"It is not ideal losing your two key props leading in to one of your biggest test matches for 2017, however this does open the door for Nephi Leatigaga to start at loosehead prop with two new call ups to the squad in Bay of Plenty brothers Jordan and James Lay, who were both born in Samoa," said Namulauulu.

Pau lock Masalosalo Tutaia is also set for his test debut off the bench, while Faifili Levave replaces Alafoti Faosiliva at number eight.

Manu Samoa prevailed 30-10 when the Pacific rivals met in Apia last year and a win would be enough to seal automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

But Namulauulu said the visitors were braced for a difficult match, in what will be the first test hosted in Tonga at Teufaiva Stadium since 2009.

"We are looking forward to playing a strong Tongan team named, we all know the significance of this match," he said.

"It is not lost on us that we have not played here since 2008 and this was actually the last time a test match was last played in Tonga, so as you can imagine it will be a big occasion for Tonga and the community here".

Samoa team:

1. Nephi Leatigaga

2. Maatulimanu Leiataua

3. Paul Alo-Emile

4. Chris Vui

5. Faatiga Lemalu

6. Piula Faasalele

7. Galu Taufale

8. Faifili Levave

9. Kahn Fotualii

10. Tusi Pisi

11. David Lemi (c)

12. Reynold Lee-Lo

13. Kieron Fonotia

14. Alapati Leiua

15. Tim Nanai Williams

16. Elia Elia

17. Jordan Lay

18. James Lay

19. Masalosalo Tutaia

20. Taiasina Tuifua

21. Auvasa Falealii

22. D'Angelo Leuila

23. Henry Taefu


Photo: PHOTOSPORT Tim Nanai-Williams