Ofisa Tonu'u.

Ofisa is a former All Black and Samoa international. As one of the most prominent halfbacks of the 1990s, Tonu'u won back-to-back Super Rugby titles with the Blues in 1996 and 1997.

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Looking forward to the Pasifika Challenge

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Ofisa Tonu'u     28 May 2017     Getty Images

It will be a showcase of Pacific rugby as Tonga takes on Wales in the first match before the All Blacks square off with Manu Samoa. Just like we saw at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the colour and passion of the Pacific will be on full display on the field and in the stands.


For me this game takes on extra significance as I played in the first ever Test between the All Blacks and Samoa - which was also staged at Eden Park.

It was 1993 and Samoa’s standing had grown in world rugby following our quarterfinal appearance and famous victory over Wales at the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

It was an old school tour. We played New Zealand Universities in Wellington and New Zealand A in Rotorua before facing the All Blacks in the historic Test.

We brought a strong team to Eden Park including many Samoan rugby legends like Peter Fatialofa, Apollo Perelini, To’o Vaega and Brian Lima. The All Blacks were stacked with their usual big names and some greats of Pacific Island rugby like Va’aiga Tuigamala and Michael Jones, but we believed we could still topple the mighty All Blacks on their home turf.

Looking back, the final scoreline of 35-13 to the All Blacks may sound like a credible effort by Manu Samoa, but the game was even more tightly contested than the scoreline suggests.

We took the game to the All Blacks and made them work hard for their two tries. We answered back with a great try to fullback Andrew Aiolupo and the main difference between the sides was the boot of Grant Fox. Foxy scored 25 points that day, including seven penalties, to dash any hopes of a Manu Samoa upset.

Despite the loss, it was an amazing day for Pacific rugby and proved that we deserved to be on the same stage as the All Blacks.
In 2015, the All Blacks and Samoa made more history when they played in Apia for the first time. I had the privilege of travelling to Samoa for that match and seeing first-hand the incredible impact the All Blacks visit had on the whole nation.

The scoreline was even closer in 2015, with the All Blacks edging Samoa 25-16. It could have been even closer if not for a couple of crucial errors by Samoa and some desperate defence by the All Blacks.

The match was fast-paced and physical and proved to be the perfect warm-up for the All Blacks Rugby World Cup defence later this year.

On Friday June 16, get set for two highly physical and entertaining encounters. This is a big stage for the Pacific teams and emotions will be running high. Expect big hits, strong carries and plenty of passion in the stands.

The 2011 Rugby World was a special time for our Pacific teams in New Zealand, and for one day we get to re-live that special atmosphere once again.