Australia A face New Zealand Maori at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday 6 June for the title of 2008 IRB Pacific Nations Cup champions.

Although this year's tournament has given both SANZAR sides a far sterner work-out than previous years, the joint favourites enter the final match day unbeaten after victories against Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Japan.

Both teams are also looking to win the growing event for the first time. Australia A entered the competition last year and played second fiddle to the Junior All Blacks, who have since been replaced in the line-up by the Maori team.

Australia A coach Phil Mooney has certainly signalled bold intent in naming another starting 15 crammed with Wallaby caps.

Mark Gerrard returns after a shoulder injury and lines up in an exciting back three alongside Digby Ioane and Drew Mitchell, while the centre combination of captain Morgan Turinui and Timana Tahu is retained for the winner-takes-all match.

Young number 8 Leroy Houston has been called up to the starting line-up to replace loose forward Hugh McMeniman, who has been called up to Robbie Deans' Wallabiesto replace the injured Nathan Sharpe.

"Everything is on the line this weekend and we have to go out there and finish the job," said Mooney.

"We've played well to this point, but that won't mean much if we can't rise to the occasion on Sunday.

"The NZ Maori are a very good team but we're confident in our own abilities and strengths and we're hoping Sydney fans will come out and give us a true home ground advantage on Sunday."

New Zealand Maori coach Donny Stevenson and his assistant Milton Haig have also named a strong side. Ben May is suffering from flu and has been bracketed with Bronson Murray. A decision about May's availability will be made on match day.

"Sunday's match is crucial and whoever wins it wins the tournament and we are treating it as a final," said Stevenson.

"Last week's match against Japan gave us a lot of confidence in terms of our attacking game and knowing that Australia A pride themselves on their attack as well, we expect a good game."

Samoa's youth to support in Apia

Samoa and Japan will both line up in Apia with one win under their belts in this year's competition.


So far Samoa have lost to Fiji (34-17), Australia A (20-15) and New Zealand Maori (17-6) before gaining their first victory last weekend, 20-15 against Tonga in Nuku'alofa. Japan also beat the Tongans, 35-13 in Tokyo, but lost last weekend against NZ Maori 65-22.

Over forty 10-year olds will also get a taste of the test match rugby atmosphere at half time in Apia when four school teams play 10-a-side matches during the break.

"We want big rugby events such as the Pacific Nations Cup to be for everyone," said Su'a P. Schuster, CEO of the Samoa Rugby Union. "We want families and schools to be involved."

"We want the children to enjoy rugby and hopefully they'll put into practise the tips they learnt from the clinics [last week]. After all, they are our future Manu Samoa and Manusina," Schuster added.

Tonga gunning for first PNC win against Fiji

After impressing at the Rugby World Cup last year, Tonga have flattered to deceive in this year's Pacific Nations Cup and enter the final weekend still looking for their first win.

Rugby World Cup quarter finalists Fiji have two wins to their name, against Samoa and Japan, and while they were well beaten last weekend by a strong Australia A side, Ilivasi Tabua's men were only narrowly overcome by the New Zealand Maori, 11-7 in Lautoka earlier in the campaign.

Tabua has blended youth and experience to take on the Tongans, new caps Josefa Domolailai and Jeremaia Tamanisau named in the starting XV, while Aca Ratuva returns to the side.

In the backs Michael Tagicakibau and Marika Vakacegu have been bracketed with Vereniki Goneva and Saula Radidi at left wing and inside centre respectively.


Australia A: 1. Sekope Kepu 2. Sean Hardman* 3. Guy Shepherdson * 4. Al Campbell* 5. Peter Kimlin 6. Hugh McMeniman* 7. Julian Salvi 8. Richard Brown 9. Brett Sheehan* 10. Daniel Halangahu 11. Digby Ioane* 12. Timana Tahu 13. Morgan Turinui* (Captain) 14. Drew Mitchell* 15. Mark Gerrard*.

Replacements: 16. John Ulugia 17. Salesi Ma'afu 18. Van Humphries 19. Leroy Houston 20. Ben Lucas 21. Sam Norton-Knight* 22. Matt Carraro.

* denotes capped Wallaby

NZ Maori: 1. Jacob Ellison 2. Aled de Malmanche 3. Bronson Murray / Ben May, 4. Ross Filipo 5. Jason Eaton 6. Liam Messam (Co-captain) 7. Tanerau Latimer 8. Thomas Waldrom 9. Piri Weepu 10. Callum Bruce 11. Hosea Gear 12. Tamati Ellison (Co-captain) 13. Jason Kawau 14. Shannon Paku 15. Dwayne Sweeney.

Replacements: 16. Hikawera Elliot 17. Bronson Murray / Ben May 18. Hoani MacDonald 19. Scott Waldrom 20. Chris Smylie 21. Tim Bateman 22. Zar Lawrence.

Samoa: TBC

Japan: TBC

Tonga: 1. Semisi Telefoni 2. Ephraim Taukafa 3. Kisi Pulu 4. Milton Ngauamo 5. Paino Hehea 6. Hale T Pole 7. Nili Latu (Captain) 8. Samiu Vahafolau 9. Enele Taufa 10. Pierre Hola 11. Sukanaivalu Hufanga 12. Epeli Taione 13. Hudson Tonga'uiha 14. Samisoni Pone 15. Vungakoto Lilo.

Replacements: 16. Viliami Ma'asi 17. Tonga Lea'aetoa 18. Joshua Afu 19. Viliami Vaki 20. Soane Havea 21. Fangatapu 'Apikotoa 22. Seti Kiole.

Fiji: 1. Graham Dewes 2. Sunia Koto 3. Jone Taginayayusa 4. Joveci Domolailai 5. Kele Leawere (Captain) 6. Deryck Thomas 7. Aca Ratuvca 8. Netani Talei 9. Aporosa Vata Tunisau 10. Waisea Luveniyali 11. Vereniki Goneva 12. Saula Radidid 13. Sireli Nagelevuki 14. Jerry Tuilevu 15. Taniela Maravunwasawasa.

Replacements: 16 Vereniki Racagi 17. Viliame Seuseu 18 Rupeni Nasiga 19. Sailosi Rabonaqica 20. Nemia Kenatale Ranuku 21. Jonetani Ralulu 22. Iliesa Keresoni.