TEAM GUIDE – TONGA
WORLD RANKING: 10
SUMMED UP IN THREE WORDS: Passionate, Conventional, Robust
THE HEAD COACH: The Tongan head coach Mana Otai represented the Ikale Tahi as Captain during the Rugby World Cup in 1995. He took over in September 2012, but it appeared he was going to leave the role at the end of 2013. However, following negotiations he signed a deal to see him through to the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
FAMILIAR FACES: Newcastle Falcons flanker Nili Latu Captains the team and his partner within the back-row, Sione Kalamafoni is the other best-known player, who plays his club rugby with Gloucester.
KEY PLAYER: The Skipper Latu is the heartbeat of the Tongan side. His experience and power at the ruck and scrum will be crucial to their World Cup campaign.
YOUNG GUN: Since signing for the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby Telusa Veainu has upped his game, scoring a memorable runaway try for the rebels in their clash against Waratahs at home in Melbourne. The 24-year-old only made his Test debut in July but impressed enough to be part of the final 31-man group.
STYLE: A physical team with a lot of ball skill and talent when going forward, however, are prone to missing tackles at imperative times
BEST RWC MOMENT: Four years ago In Wellington, in the final game of Pool A Tonga stunned a ramshackle France, running out 19-14 winners and securing their most famous World Cup win.
WORST RWC MOMENT: After playing in the inaugural World Cup in 1987 Tonga failed to qualify for the 1991 Rugby World Cup, which to date is the only one they have missed.
COMMENTATOR’s GO-TO FACT: Tonga consists of some 150 islands, of which 36 are inhabited.
EXPECTATIONS: They are not under much pressure, however, will be expected to play with the famous combative spirit their side is renowned for. They will want to end the tournament with at least two victories against Georgia and Namibia, anything else would be a bonus.
VIEW FROM THE STANDS: Ruth, 30, Tonga
1. How would you describe the Tongan team? They are a strong and vibrant team who play with a lot of passion every time they wear the red shirt.
2. How do you think they will do at the World Cup? With so many good teams it will be incredibly tough to get out the Pool but I always believe.
3. Who do you think will win it? England, on home turf they should be able to win it I think. You can never write off the All Blacks or Australia though.
RUCK VERDICT: The crucial match will be between Argentina and Tonga, with the winner likely to advance to the quarter-finals. However, the Pumas are probably the stronger of the two but a third place finish would at least ensure qualification for the next World Cup in three year’s time.
19/09/2015: Tonga vs. Georgia, Kingsholm, Gloucester. Kick off 12:00
29/09/2015: Tonga vs. Namibia, Sandy Park, Exeter. Kick off 16:45
04/10/2015: Argentina vs. Tonga, Leicester City Stadium. Kick off 14:30
09/10/2015: New Zealand vs. Tonga, St James Park, Newcastle. Kick off 20:00
Tevita Mailau, Alisona Taumalolo, Soane Tonga’uiha, Halani Aulika, Sila Puafisi, Elvis Taione, Paula Ngauamo, Aleki Lutui, Tukulua Lokotui, Joeseph Tiuneau, Steve Mafi, Opeti Fonua, Hala T-Pole, Nili Latu, Jack Ram, Viliami Ma’afu, Sione Kalamafoni
Sonatane Takulua, Samisoni Fisilau, Sosefo Ma’ake, Kurt Morath, Latiume Fosita, Sione Piukala, Siale Piutau, Viliami Tahitu’a, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Telusa Veainu, Tevita Halaifonua, William Helu, Vungakoto