Fiji and Tonga will play in Japan as part of an expanded Pacific Nations Cup to be held in the lead-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The Flying Fijians, who are currently ranked eighth in the world, will begin the defence of their PNC title against the Brave Blossoms in Kamaishi on July 27 while the ‘Ikale Tahi will take on the hosts in Hanazono the following weekend.

The two cities will host the Pacific nations during the World Cup, with the Japanese tests are a chance for the cities and fans to build an affinity with their adopted teams, while allowing the hosts to test their readiness just under two months out from the opening match of the tournament.

The 2019 Pacific Nations Cup will feature an expanded six-team tournament, with matches also hosted in Fiji, Samoa and the United States.

The US Eagles, Canada and Japan join traditional rivals Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, with each team playing three games.

Samoa needed a last-minute try to beat Canada 21-20 in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2015.

Canada, USA and Japan last featured in the Pacific Nations Cup in 2015. Photo: Colin Watson

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With all roads leading to Rugby World Cup 2019, it is exciting to announce that six participating unions, Canada, Fiji, hosts Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA will feature in the World Rugby Pacific Cup 2019 line-up.

“This announcement reflects our commitment to provide a strong preparation platform for these unions immediately prior to our showcase event, to build excitement in two host cities and deliver an important programme of testing and readiness ahead of Asia’s first Rugby World Cup.”

The Flying Fijians perform the Cibi before a test against Japan in November.

The Flying Fijians perform the Cibi before a test against Japan in 2017. Photo: AFP

Japan Rugby Football Union Chairman Noriyuki Sakamoto said: “It is with great pleasure that two Pacific Nations Cup 2019 matches will be held in Japan, just two months before Rugby World Cup 2019 commences.

“We look forward to welcoming Fiji and Tonga to the match venues of Rugby World Cup 2019, Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate and the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka, respectively.”

Meanwhile Suva will once again host the World Rugby Pacific Challenge in March, with the Fiji Warriors seeking a fourth straight title on home soil against Tonga A, Samoa A and Junior Japan.

(Source:Radio New Zealand)

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