Fiji Warriors begin the defence of their World Rugby Pacific Challenge title on Wednesday when they take on Tonga A at Apia Park in Samoa, kick-off 12:30 local time (00:30 GMT+13)

Fiji’s development team has monopolised the tournament, winning it 10 times including five of the last six with Junior Japan the only team to deny them in that time.

Last year Fiji Warriors swept all before them in emphatic style, scoring a tournament-record 29 tries after big wins against Tonga A (73-25), Manuma Samoa (50-25) and Junior Japan (72-15).

Fiji Warriors are undoubtedly the team to stop and the A teams of Tonga and Samoa and a Japan XV made up predominantly of under-20 players, will be doing their utmost to change the course of history over the next 10 days.

Head coach Senirusi Seruvakula, who is about to lead Fiji Warriors at the Pacific Challenge for the seventh time, recognises that they will have a target on their back.

“We’re going into this competition as the defending champions so the rest of the teams will be trying their best to defeat us,” the 50-year-old said.

“Our main goal is to win and perform well and showcase the talent we have and to give the younger players confidence, especially  those going into the U20s World Cup in a couple of months.”

With new coaching teams in place at senior national team level at all four participating countries, there is a golden opportunity for the youngsters on display over the coming 10 days to put their hand up and use the tournament as a platform to graduate to the test arena, as many others have done before.

Out of the Warriors’ 28-man squad, around half are uncapped, five are from the Fijian Drua, with the rest coming from the Oceania U20 side and the domestic Skipper Cup.

This youthful theme is reflected across the tournament as each team’s squad must consist of 23 players that are 23 years of age and under as of 10 April, 2024, while the remaining five players can be any age over 18.

Tonga's team manager, Filokalafi Akau'ola said after multiple challenges in Tonga before their arrival, they are looking forward to their time in Samoa.

"There are a lot of young talents in Tonga and they'd like to achieve at this kind of tournament. Being in Samoa last year we didn't do well but this year we will; if we win, that will be a very good A-plus for us," he said.

"We started preparations in January and one of the challenges we had in Tonga was the weather since last year, it's been raining all the way and it was too bad for us and the main field in Tonga was occupied by schools so we had to find somewhere else to train.”

Eddie Jones keeping keen eye on Japan XV 

Japan XV begin their campaign to add to their sole title success in the second match of the opening round, against host team Manuma Samoa (KO 04:30 GMT +13).

Brave Blossoms head coach Eddie Jones will be among the interested onlookers at Apia Park as the stars of the future, as well as a few older heads, look to impress.

The Japan XV team is in the main made up of university students who are in contention for a place in the Japan squad for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2024 in Scotland in July.

In addition, four “over-aged” players have been added to the team – hooker Kenji Sato, second-row Kento Aoki, scrum-half Asahi Doei and centre Yuta Akihama.

New head coach Naoya Okubo, a veteran of two Rugby World Cups as a Brave Blossoms player, has been putting the players through their paces since February with a series of training camps complemented by a four-game series of warm-up fixtures against Japan League One teams, which ended in a draw and three defeats.

Okubo held previous top-level head coach roles with the Sunwolves and Yamaha Jubilo having started his coaching career at Suntory in 2010.

The former loose forward, who was capped 29 times by his country (1999-2004), says the objectives in Samoa are two-fold: player development and performance.

“I have the tournament (U20 Trophy) in July in mind, but our objectives are to win this tournament, which will be the first time since 2020, and also to see if we can send some of our players to the Japan senior side.”

Manuma Samoa, meanwhile, will be captained by Ivan Fepuleai, who returns for a second tournament, while the head coach is Mailo Potumoe Leavasa.

Manuma Samoa finished as runners-up to Fiji Warriors last year and will be hoping to go one better in front of a home crowd.