Preview: Tonga too strong for USA
September 12, 2007

United States centre Paul Emerick's World Cup is effectively over after he received a five-week ban for a dangerous tackle on England fly-half Olly Barkley.

Newport Gwent Dragons player Emerick was cited by match commissioner Steven Hines following the incident during last Saturday's Pool A game in Lens.

Referee Jonathan Kaplan yellow-carded Emerick, but he was summoned to appear before World Cup judicial officer Professor Lorne Crerar in Paris today.

Emerick has 48 hours to decide on a possible appeal, but with the United States likely to bow out of World Cup contention at the pool stage, his tournament looks to have reached a grinding halt.

Crerar upheld the citing complaint, considering the offence intentional.

He felt there was a deliberate tipping motion in the tackle with an element of force in driving Barkley downwards.

Crerar, though, also took into account Emerick's good disciplinary record and his remorse over the incident.

Emerick had been named in an unchanged Eagles side to face Tonga in Montpellier tomorrow.

And it promises to be a tough challenge for the Americans, given they are back in Pool A action less than 96 hours after facing England.

Eagles head coach Peter Thorburn said: "We don't focus on the opposition - we have our own philosophies to do what we want to do.

"You can get paralysis by analysis. It's not bad to have a fear of the opposition, not of them physically, but of what they could do if we give them latitude.''

The Eagles won acclaimed reviews for the way they competed against England, drawing the second half 7-7 and finishing far stronger than their opponents.

Skipper Mike Hercus, though, knows there can be no hangover from that performance against a Tongan side eager to make its mark.

Hercus said: "We gave ourselves a day to get over our feelings about the English game, but obviously now it is about the next task at hand.

"We have the rest of our lives to remember the English game, but we've only had a couple of days to prepare for the Tongan game.

"We have no illusions that the performance against England will transcend into the next game. There's pressure on every game to perform, so we will meet that head on.''

Tonga received a late boost ahead of the game when captain Nili Latu was declared fit after recovering from hamstring trouble.

And Tonga are determined to clip the Eagles' wings, given added motivation to serve up a quality performance for prop Taufa'ao Filise, who has returned home following the death of his father.

Latu said: "The hamstring has been a bit tight, so we were just being cautious.

"I didn't train on Monday. It was too hot, so I thought I would just let the rest of the boys run around instead!

"We have worked so hard for this match, and we are excited and nervous. We must also win for our prop Taufa'ao Filise, who has gone back to Tonga because his father passed away.''

Coach Quddus Fielea added: "Our target is the quarter-finals, so this is a very important game for us. This is our opening game, so it is very important we play well too.

"The players are self-motivated. Being able to enjoy the next week knowing that we have won is enough motivation.''

USA: C Wyles; S Sika, P Emerick, V Esikia, T Ngwenya; M Hercus, C Erskine; M MacDonald, O Lentz, C Osentowski, A Parker, M Mangan, L Stanfill, T Clever, H Bloomfield.

Replacements: B Burdette, M Moeakiola, H Mexted, I Basauri, M Petri, V Malifa, A Tuipulotu.

Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, Tevita Tu'ifua, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Epeli Taione, Joseph Vaka, Pierre Hola, Soane Havea, Soane Tonga'uiha, Aleki Lutui, Kisi Pulu, Lisiate Fa'aoso, Paino Hehea, Hale T Pole, Nili Latu (c), Finau Maka

Replacements: Ephraim Taukafa, Toma Toke, Viliami Vaki, Lotu Filipine, Sione Tu'ipulotu, Isileli Tupou, Aisea Havili

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