3 Nov 2017

Sport: Fiji and Tonga face daunting start to 2019 RWC

11:04 am on 3 November 2017

Fiji and Tonga face a daunting start to the 2019 Rugby World Cup with opening round matches against Australia and England.

The Flying Fijians kick off their campaign against the Wallabies on Saturday September 21st in Sapporo with the 'Ikale Tahi taking on Six Nations champions England at the same venue a day later.

Tonga and Argentina also faced off at the 2015 World Cup.

Tonga and Argentina also faced off at the 2015 World Cup. Photo: AFP

Tongan coach Toutai Kefu said at least they get arguably the toughest match out of the way early.

"There's many ways to look at it but I think it suits us. We play England up the top there in Sapporo and then make our way down the country," he said.

"I suppose that's the only probably challenge for us, is we're up the top of the nation in the north island then work our way down and back to the middle in Osaka.

"But there seems to be a fair few number of days between the games which is very helpful".

Tonga's next Pool C clash is six days later against Argentina in Osaka, while the team has a week between each of their remaining pool games against France in Kumamoto and the USA back in Osaka.

Fiji only have three days to recover from their tournament opener before facing an Americas qualifier in Kamaishi, but have seven days off prior to their next Pool D match against Georgia in Osaka and five days rest before facing Wales in Oita.

Fiji and Australia (playing here in 2017) will face off in their 2019 Rugby World Cup opener.

Fiji and Australia (playing here in 2017) will face off in their 2019 Rugby World Cup opener. Photo: AFP

World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper saids the schedule was designed to maximise rest days and minimise travel time.

He said no tier two team will play a tier one team after a short turnaround, with Tonga and Japan having the largest number of rest days.

"We have worked hard to deliver a match schedule that improves on the Rugby World Cup 2015 model, delivering a more balanced spread of matches across the four weeks of pool matches and greater rest periods for the emerging rugby nations ahead of matches against the top-ranked teams".

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu Photo: RNZI / Vinnie Wylie

Toutai Kefu said it was a vast improvement from the last World Cup, where Tonga had to play three games in 11 days.

"You look back at 2015, I think we had two games on a four day turnaround at the back-end of the pool so we're very happy with the pool," he said.

"You need time to recover, especially after playing the tier one nations because they're quite bruising

"As long as you a couple of days to recover and obviously you've got to add a travel day in that so you want to be feeling fresh-ish when you move into your next game, so it means a lot having those extra days off".

Manu Samoa are yet to qualify for the World Cup and will contest a home and away playoff against a European qualifier next year for a berth in Pool A, alongside Ireland, Scotland and Japan and a European qualifier.

The defeated team will contest the final repechage tournament for a spot in Pool B, alongside New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and an African qualifier.