Rugby World Cup 2019: Tonga chasing history in Japan

  • 02/09/2019
Prop Ben Tameifuna.
Prop Ben Tameifuna. Photo credit: Photosport

Coach Toutai Kefu insists it's playoffs or bust for Tonga at the upcoming Rugby World Cup, after the announcement of his 31-man group to head to Japan.

On Monday, Kefu unveiled his squad at the Hamilton Marist Rugby Club, as they prepare for a stern tournament warm-up against the defending champion All Blacks on Saturday.

Tonga have never advanced past the group stage of the competition and while they've drawn a testing pool - that includes the likes of powerhouses England with France, Argentina, and the USA - Kefu believes his men are up to the challenge.

"I'm fixated on making the playoffs," said Kefu. "We're in a tough pool, there's no doubt about it. 

"We just need to get together and believe in what we're doing, and believe that we can make it. And I certainly think we can."

Former Highlander Nasi Manu returns to captain the team, which also features star Leicester Tigers back Telusa Veainu and ex-Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna.

While they've recorded wins over France at previous tournaments, most recently 2011,  recent form suggests they have plenty of work to do if they want to secure the three wins they'll likely need to progress and make history.

Tonga lost 29-19 to Fiji at Eden Park last Saturday and in the Pacific Nations Cup prior to that, they lost 25-17 to Samoa in Apia and 41-7 to Japan.

"We're confident in the way we're going at the moment. Even though we had a loss last week there's some really, really good stuff that we did."

They certainly have some quality warm-up opposition to prime themselves for Japan, starting with their hosts on Saturday.

"We've got four tier one games in a row, including this one. We've never had that before. We're always asking World Rugby for more tier one games, and we've got it."

Tonga Rugby World Cup squad: Siegfried Fisiihoi, Vunipola Fifita, Latu Talakai, Paula Ngauamo, Sosefo Sakalia, Siua Maile, Siua Halanukonuka, Ma'afu Fia, Ben Tameifuna, Sam Lousi, Leva Fifita, Sitiveni Mafi, Sione Kalamafoni, Maama Vaipulu, Fotu Lokotui, Zane Kapeli, Dan Faleafa, Nasi Manu, Sonatane Takulua, Leon Fukofuka, Samisoni Fisilau, Kurt Morath, James Faiva, Siale Piutau (c), Malietoa Hingano, Nafi Tuitavake, Atieli Pakalani, David Halaifonua, Viliami Lolohea, Cooper Vuna, Telusa Veainu.

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