Fiji first, Samoa next for Tonga
Tongan front-rower Siosaia Vave admits he's disappointed not to be playing arch rivals Samoa in the Pacific Test on Saturday night but says Tonga will use their clash with Fiji as motivation to send a strong message to their island neighbours.
While the focus remains on the present with a Rugby League World Cup around the corner, last season's loss to Samoa still burns the 27-year-old who is keen to turn the result around and make amends.
Samoa ran out 18-6 winners on that occasion and have beaten the Tongan side in three of their last four clashes.
"I'm bummed 100 per cent [we're not playing Samoa] because we want to get them back for last year. It was a good game but we lost it ourselves," Vave told NRL.com ahead of the clash with Fiji.
"We got them in our pool for the World Cup so fingers crossed I'm playing and we get to bash them again."
Taking nothing away from the Fijian outfit, the Parramatta front-rower was quick to point out they'll be no easybeats with 16 players with NRL experience in the Telstra Premiership and a side full of danger men across the park.
Tonga have named one of their strongest line-ups in recent history with Manu Vatuvei, Daniel Tupou and Will Hopoate all experienced in the representative arena.
"The [Fiji] backline is their strength with Kevin Naiqama and Suliasi Vunivalu both in form, and the Saifiti twins and Korbin Sims up front can do damage," Vave said.
"They're all athletic and mobile so we'll need to hold them down and stick to our strengths of going through them.
"We've got some good young kids coming through and a few guys that have got other rep honours… blokes that have played for Australia and New South Wales – there is a fair bit of calibre here.
"Hopefully we get a huge following – as big as we did out at Parramatta last season [at Pirtek Stadium] so fingers crossed the fans make an effort to come out."
Vave will play his sixth international match for Tonga – the most of any player in the side – and has the chance to become the most capped player by the end of the World Cup tournament.
"I didn't know that but I could tell when I was looking around I was a bit older than most of these blokes, they're all mainly under 25 and I'm on the other side of that," he said.
"Obviously you can't look at those things too much and take it game by game, but to be the most capped Tongan player by the end of the year would be pretty special. I'm not getting any younger so hopefully it does come sooner rather than later… it would be a great milestone.
"It's been great to meet some of the young kids and new faces in the side, it's been a different feel in camp without Koni (Konrad Hurrell) and Solo (Solomone Kata) – they're usually the freshest Tongans in the side, but at the same time it's nice to be with your culture and change it up from the weekly grind [at Parramatta]."
Despite boasting the most caps in the line-up, the Mt Druitt junior admitted he's not one to lead the war dance pre-game.
"Siliva Havili will lead… I'd get stage fright but would do it if I had to," he said.
"[The choice] comes from the playing group and usually who we think the best player to represent the whole of Tonga in camp is will do it."