NEWS
07/27/2015 16:08 EDT | Updated 07/27/2016 01:12 EDT

Oh brother. Samoa to unleash two Tuilagis against Canada in Pacific Nations Cup

TORONTO — At six foot two and 265 pounds, Samoan winger Alesana Tuilagi is hard to miss. Or stop.

"I've tried to tackle him about 10 times and I've failed every time," said American captain Chris Wyles, who regularly sees Tuilagi in the England's Aviva Premiership. "I'm still trying."

Wyles, a fullback/wing, gives up two inches and 60 pounds to the 34-year-old Samoan captain.

Canada will have two Tuilagis to stop Wednesday when they host Samoa in the Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament at Toronto's BMO Field. Younger brother Vavae Tuilagi, a mere six foot and 260 pounds, is also on the Samoan roster. The 27-year-old plays No. 8.

It could be worse. Six of the seven Tuilagi brothers have played elite rugby.

Freddy, Henry and Andy have also won caps for Samoa. Manu plays internationally for England, although he is currently out of favour after pleading guilty to three charges of assault and one of criminal damage

Samoa, ranked ninth in the world, opened the six-country Pacific Nations Cup with a 21-16 win over the 16th-ranked Americans in San Jose before tying No. 10 Fiji 30-30 in Sacramento.

No. 18 Canada is coming off losses of 20-6 to No. 13 Japan in San Jose and 28-18 to No. 12 Tonga in Burnaby, B.C.

Wednesday's tripleheader also features the U.S. versus Tonga and Fiji versus Japan. The tournament wraps up Aug. 3 in Burnaby with placement games.

The teams are using the Pacific Nations Cup as a warmup for this fall's Rugby World Cup in Britain. The competition is of special interest to Japan, Samoa and the U.S., who have been drawn in the same World Cup pool along with Scotland and South Africa.

Alesana and Andy, 29, both play for the Newcastle Falcons in England. At 246 pounds and a shade under six feet, Andy may be the runt of the family.

Alesana, who spent eight years with Leicester Tigers before playing in Japan, says he only has one gripe about playing in northeast England.

"It's a bit cold," he said. "Different from where we came from."

While it is an evening start Wednesday, the Samoans are enjoying the 30-plus Celsius temperatures during the heat wave.

"We love the weather like this," Alesana said with enthusiasm.

He gets back to Samoa in the off-season, spending four to six weeks with his family back home. It's a long haul from Newcastle. "A few stops," he said with a laugh.

For Canada it will be back-to-back black-and-blue games against a hard-nosed Pacific Island team.

"They're a very physical skilful team," Wyles said of the Samoans. "I think we played into their hands a bit. We tried to be a little too physical with them. They were able to offload and perhaps our kicking game could have been a bit better.

"I think if you put them under pressure, you can get some results. Whatever happens you know there'll be some big hits."

Canadian captain Tyler Ardron, a sizable man himself at 6-4 and 242 pounds, says his team has no problem with that.

"The physicality is a given with them and I think we've shown we can match that," he said. "So maybe it's not our reputation but it's something that we're happy to do and I think the boys will enjoy it.

"It is going to be another really physical game but that being said, they've got pretty well a full professional team so we know these guys know rugby in and out."

Canada will be looking to cut down on the errors and defensive lapses that helped Japan and Tonga keep the scoreboard turning.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press