Battle for the Cup is on!

Thursday August 03, 2017 Written by Published in Rugby Union
Calm before the storm … Cook Islands skipper Francis Smith (left) and his Tahiti counterpart Tunui Anania during the captains’ photoshoot at Blackrock yesterday. 17080236 Calm before the storm … Cook Islands skipper Francis Smith (left) and his Tahiti counterpart Tunui Anania during the captains’ photoshoot at Blackrock yesterday. 17080236

It’s been a week of merrymaking in the Cook Islands and the national XVs team wants to end it on a high when they take on Tahiti in the Oceania Cup challenge tomorrow.

 

The match which will serve as the Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier will kick off at 3pm at the BCI Stadium in Nikao.

Both teams are promising fireworks in the battle which is expected to bring Rarotonga to a standstill.

Cook Islands skipper Francis Smith is hoping to pick some inspiration from this week’s festive season heading into the crunch battle.

He knows the importance of this match and the opportunities it will open up for the local players, if they win.

“This is a big stepping stone for us towards the World Cup but we are focused on this particular game. Winning this can do a lot of things for the future of the game and future of rugby in the Cook Islands,” said Smith, the former Tasman Makos player.

“As a nation, this match is very important for about 20,000 people who live on the island. I know Tahiti is trying to claim the underdog status but there are 200,000 of them in Tahiti and millions of them around the world so I think we are the underdogs in this match.

“The boys have trained hard for this and it’s always good to play at home. We have a lot to show on Friday.”

On paper, Cook Islands is favoured to win given their past record against Tahiti which has improved significantly over the years.

And Tahiti captain Tunui Anania hopes to carry on that momentum they have set in the past two Oceania Cup.

“For us, it’s important to play a good game on Friday. We had a sketchy start in 2013 but managed to win two games in 2015 and we want to continue to grow up and show that Tahiti is capable as well,” Anania said.

Tahiti will have the services of eight France-based players and Anania hopes they will lead by example in the do-or-die battle against the home team.

He said lack of preparation time was a factor but they managed to get some tough sessions together since arriving into Rarotonga last weekend.

“When we played the Cook Islands in 2006, we lost by 100 points but that doesn’t matter now. We know Cook Islands are better and have players who have played together longer than us. We have a lot younger players who wants to do their best.”

Smith is calling on Cook Islanders to turn up in a sea of green and help the team achieve their goal of making it through to the second stage of the RWC qualifiers.

He said the team have prepared well and were ready to fight tooth and nail for victory tomorrow.

“There is a brotherhood between us and them but when we cross the line, everything changes,” said the national team flanker.

“They have improved a lot since 2006 and the French influence has surely helped them improve their rugby. It will be a tight game and a good matchup between the two teams.”

Tickets are selling at $5 for adults and $2 for children under-16. The starting line-up will be announced later today.

Leave a comment