Tonga

Published on: 10th September 2015

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World Ranking: 111280px-Flag_of_Tonga.svg

Odds of Winning: 2000/1

Road to Qualification: Finished 3rd in their pool in the 2011 RWC, so automatically qualified for this tournament.

Recent Results:

Japan 20 – 31 Tonga

Tonga 33 – 19 United States of America

Canada 18 – 28 Tonga

Fiji 30 – 22 Tonga


World Cup Pool Games:

Date Time Team v Team Stadium
Saturday, 19 September 15 Tonga v Georgia Kingsholm, Gloucester
Tuesday, 29 September 15 Tonga v Namibia Sandy Park, Exeter
Sunday, 4 October 15 Argentina v Tonga Leicester City Stadium, Leicester
Friday, 9 October 15 New Zealand v Tonga St. James’ Park, Newcastle

Strengths:

  • Big ball carriers – when you’ve got people who are the same weight as a baby elephant running at you, defences tend to be worried.
  • Physical team – big hits, above comment applies in defence too.

Weaknesses:

  • Difficulty lasting the full 80 minutes – performances tends to drop off towards the end of games, baby elephants don’t have much stamina.
  • Lack of quality players – Tonga suffer the curse that seems to affect all Pacific Island teams – they could have an entire 15 of players who have instead chosen to play for a Tier 1 nation team or making themselves unavailable for selection, such as: the Vunipola brothers, Talupe Faletau and Nasi Manu.

Key Players:

Kurt Morath

The New Zealand born fly-half has played all over the world, and now plys his trade at Biarritz. He started all 4 games at the last World Cup back in 2011, and he will be looking to steer Tonga to victory.

Fetu’u Vainikolo

The ex Connacht and Exeter winger is a quick and agile winger, with some brute force to go along with that.

Sione Kalamafoni

The Gloucester fan favourite is a powerful ball carrier,work at the breakdown and is known for his big hits in defense. One of Gloucester’s key players and if Tonga are to progress then Sione Kalamafoni will be at the heart of it.

Injuries / Unlucky to miss out:

  • Lisiate Fa’aoso
  • Taniela Moa
  • Taione Vea

Squad:

Props: Tevita Mailau (Mont de Marsant/Perpignan), Alisona Taumalolo (Racing/Grenoble), Soane Tonga’uiha (Oyonnax), Halani Aulika (London Irish), Sila Puafisi (Gloucester/Glasgow)

Hookers: Elvis Taione (Exeter Chiefs), Paula Ngauamo (Oyonnax/Mont de Marson), Aleki Lutui (Gloucester/Ampthill RFC)

Locks: Tukulua Lokotui (Beziers), Joeseph Tiuneau (Lyon/Dax), Steve Mafi (Western Force), Uili Kolo’ofai

Flankers: Hala T-Pole (Otago), Nili Latu (Newcastle Falcons), Jack Ram (Auckland Blues), Viliami Ma’afu (Oyonnax)

No. 8: Sione Kalamafoni (Gloucester) , Opeti Fonua (London Welsh/Leicester Tigers)

Scrum Half: Sonatane Takulua (Newcastle Falcons), Samisoni Fisilau (Jersey RFC), Sosefo Ma’ake (Havelu Bulldogs)

Fly Half: Kurt Morath (Biarritz), Latiume Fosita (Doncaster)

Centre: Sione Piukala (Perpignan), Siale Piutau (Yamaha), Viliami Tahitu’a (Northland)

Winger: Fetu’u Vainikolo (Oyonnax), Telusa Veainu (Melbourne Rebels), Tevita Halaifonua (Gloucester), William Helu (Edinburgh)

Fullback: Vungakoto Lilo (Montauban)


Likely Starting XV:


Summary:

Tonga have never left the pool stages, and will be looking to rectify that this time round. They came agonisingly close to getting to the quarter-finals last time round. They beat eventual runners up France in 19-14, however an early loss to Canada in the pool meant that they finished off 3rd in the group.

Tonga have similar game styles to the other Pacific Island teams, traditionally big ball carriers, with a bit of flair and pace out the back.

Whilst Tonga have been able to recall some of their bigger stars such as Helu, etc etc, back, a number of players have made themselves unavailable or chosen not to represent Tonga at international level.

Dan Leo spoke out recently about Pacific Island players being actively encouraged to not represent their country or face having their salary docked or not having their contract renewed. And, as if that wasn’t enough to contend with, a number of their players who are eligible to play for Tonga, refuse to represent them, in the hopes of playing for sides such as New Zealand and Australia, as the head of the Tongan Rugby Union Epeli Taione commented back in May:

“The fact that we’re going to the World Cup and some of our best players are not part of it and it’s quite sad. It’s not really a reflection on what the World Cup should be. Due respect to New Zealand: they’ve done their work – and Australia – to see Tongans sitting there watching the World Cup. Even worse, they [will] probably play one test and they never ever going to play for New Zealand and here were are hamstring our way to the World Cup and limping out of it, which is quite a sad situation for world rugby. I think really they should take a good look at themselves and stop protecting themselves alone and looking after themselves and start to consider other smaller nations”.

Despite all this, Tonga are still a force to be reckoned with, and they’ll be targeting Argentina as the team to beat to get out of the group stages. However they will need to be wary of the lower ranked opponents if they are to progress, as it turned out to be their undoing last time round.

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