Ireland vs Tonga - The Six Former All Blacks and Wallabies set to take on Andy Farrell's side - Ruck

Ireland vs Tonga – The Six Former All Blacks and Wallabies set to take on Andy Farrell’s side

Ireland continue their Rugby World Cup campaign this Saturday evening, with a tough battle expected against Tonga. The Sea Eagles sat out the opening round of action with a bye, and will be fired up for their first match of the competition.

Ireland got off to the best possible start in last weekend’s win over Romania, as Andy Farrell’s side established a new winning record for Ireland at the Rugby World Cup. An astonishing 82-8 landslide saw Ireland score more than one point per minute against the Eastern Europeans, for a comfortable win in Bordeaux.

However, Tonga look like a side that will present more of a fight to the World Number Ones. Following World Rugby’s recent law changes regarding international eligibility, Tonga have been able to recruit some former All Blacks and Wallabies stars into their ranks for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. All of these players have undergone a three-year stand down period from international test rugby, and qualify to represent Tonga on ancestorial or residency grounds.

Here are Tonga’s six newest recruits, for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

1. Malakai Fekitoa

Fans of the Premiership will be more than familiar with Malakai Fekitoa, as the centre used to make starring performances for Wasps. After completing his residency period in New Zealand as part of the Highlanders, Fekitoa made his All Blacks debut in the 2014 Summer Series against England. A formidable stepper with explosive pace, Fekitoa combines his physical strengths with an astute knowledge of attacking structure, and orchestrating plays to break the gain-line.

Fekitoa won the 2015 Super Rugby Final with the Dunedin side, and was apart of the All Blacks squad that won the Rugby World Cup that same year. However, shortly after Fekitoa helped New Zealand win their second consecutive Web Ellis Trophy, he began to drift to the fringes of the squad. The centre made his 25th and final test match appearance for the All Blacks against the 2017 British and Irish Lions, as he came off the bench in the famous third test, which ended in a 15-15 draw at Eden Park.

Club rugby then took Fekitoa away from New Zealand, with his move to Toulon ending his hopes for additional All Blacks appearances. After a fourth placed finish in Fekitoa’s one and only Top 14 season, he made his jump to the Premiership ahead of the 2019/20 campaign. Fekitoa’s talents fitted in well amongst the Wasps side that boasted fellow former All Blacks Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen and Lima Sopoaga. Fekitoa scored seven tries in his 49 appearances for Wasps, before the playmaking midfielder departed for Munster at the end of the 2021/22 season.

Fekitoa’s Tongan journey began soon after World Rugby altered the eligibility laws in 2021. The former All Black made his debut for the Sea Eagles in the 2022 Pacific Nations Cup, running out for 65 minutes in a defeat to Fiji. The Munster man has since ran out for eight Tongan test matches, and is still searching for his first try for his homeland nation. After winning the United Rugby Championship with Munster last season, he will face off against his teammates Peter O’Mahony and Jack Crowley this weekend.