Rugby World Cup 2019: United States v Tonga

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Tonga coach Toutai Kefu is determined to send retiring captain Siale Piutau out a winner against the United States in a Rugby World Cup contest on Sunday that is still in the hands of the weather.

Typhoon Hagibis has already seen two of Saturday's clashes called off and the Pool C dead rubber at Hanazono Stadium in Osaka will be subject to a late check on the morning of the game.

If it does go ahead as scheduled, Bristol Bears centre Piutau will bow out of the international scene – bar the possibility of "special occasions" – and Kefu paid tribute to his skipper.

"He has been a great servant to the game. When I came in as head coach he was the one I wanted to be captain," Kefu said.

"We would love to put him out with a win. He's been our best player over the four weeks and leads from the front."

Tonga's solitary return from spirited performances against England, Argentina and France is a losing bonus point in a 23-21 defeat against the latter last Sunday.

For Piutau – who, weather permitting, will celebrate his 34th birthday by jointly breaking his country's record for World Cup appearances alongside Sione Kalamafoni – the only focus is helping the team leave Japan with a win to their name.

"I'm not putting the focus on myself, but I want to leave the team on a high – that's my priority. There is no place I would rather be than with these boys," he said.

"It's been a huge honour and privilege and I'm grateful for the opportunities that the red jersey has given me."

USA are also without a victory and will be desperate to prove strides have been taken in what is the first World Cup since the inception of Major League Rugby.

Head coach Gary Gold believes USA can emulate the successes enjoyed by hosts Japan, who are on the cusp of a famous quarter-final berth, if the nation is awarded the 2027 World Cup.

Japan did not a win a match at the 2011 tournament but shocked South Africa en route to becoming the first team to win three pool matches and not reach the last eight four years ago in England.

"For us, [Japan] are an unbelievable role model for so many reasons and I'm talking about the USA particularly," said Gold, who was working in Japan with Kobelco Steelers in 2015.

"This is the reason why I feel so very strongly that if World Rugby genuinely do want to grow the game, as they claim they want to, then USA have to be a contender for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

"For them to now be quarter-final contenders is a fairy tale come true. 

"It's something that can be done, but it was largely off the back of them having been awarded a Rugby World Cup."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

USA – Blaine Scully

USA skipper Scully is set to make an 11th World Cup appearance, a joint-record for his country. Scully is one of two players for USA to have played every minute of this tournament, alongside fellow winger Marcel Brache. 

Tonga – Siale Piutau 

What better way to celebrate a birthday and a landmark showing than with a final World Cup hurrah for one of Tongan rugby's finest servants? The powerhouse centre has led by example throughout the tournament and will be a major threat against USA. 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the 10th clash between USA and Tonga in Tests, the Eagles won the first encounter in 1999 but Tonga have won the subsequent eight meetings.
- USA and Tonga have met just once before in the World Cup, Tonga prevailing 25-15 when in 2007 in Montpellier.
- The Eagles have won just three of their 28 Rugby World Cup matches so far (L25), losing their last nine on the trot. Their most recent win came against Russia in 2011.
- Tonga have lost their last five World Cup matches, the third time they have endured a losing streak of this length. They have never gone six games without registering a victory.