Tonga national rugby union team

Tonga national rugby union team
Tonga
Logo Tonga Rugby.svg
Union Tonga Rugby Football Union
Nickname(s) ʻIkale Tahi
Emblem(s) The White Dove
Coach(es) New Zealand Isitolo Maka
Captain(s) Tonga Finau Maka
Team kit
Change kit
First international
Tonga  9 – 6  Fiji
(15 August 1924)
Largest win
Tonga  119 – 0  South Korea
(22 March 2003)
Largest defeat
New Zealand  102 – 0  Tonga
(16 June 2000)
World Cup
Appearances 4 (First in 1987)
Best result First round, third in pool 1995,2007 & 2011

The Tonga national rugby union team is nicknamed ʻIkale Tahi (Sea Eagles). Like their Polynesian neighbours, the Tongans start their matches with a war dance – the Kailao (aka the Sipi Tau). They are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) along with Fiji and Samoa. The Ikale Tahi achieved a monumental 19 - 14 victory over France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Contents

History

Rugby was brought to the region in the early 20th Century by sailors and missionaries and the Tonga Rugby Football Union was formed in late 1923. Tonga beat Fiji 9–6 in their first test in 1924 played in the capital Nukuʻalofa. However Tonga lost the second test 14–3 and drew the decider 0–0.

Between 1924 and 1938 Tonga and Fiji played three test series every alternate year. Matches between the two Pacific nations were hard fought; many have claimed that the ancient feuding wars between the Islanders were transplanted onto the rugby field. Troubles during the third Test of Fiji’s 1928 tour to Tonga forced the game to be abandoned with Tonga leading 11–8. In 1954 Tonga played host to a touring Western Samoa.

Tonga beat New Zealand Māori in 1969 but had to wait until 1973 before they played their second test match a 30–12 defeat against Australia in Sydney. They got their revenge when they beat Australia in Ballymore, Brisbane 16–11, scoring four tries to two in June 1973. The following year they travelled to the Arms Park for a non-cap international against Wales, a game that ended in a 26–7 defeat.

The first Tongan tour to Great Britain was in 1974 when they played 10 games, including those in Wales against East Wales, Llanelli, North Wales, Newport, West Wales and a Wales XV. The only tour victory was by 18–13 in the opener against East Wales. The 'tests' were lost by 44–8 to a Scotland XV and by 26–7 to the Wales XV.

They remained a little-known quantity in Europe until 1986 when Wales embarked on a tour of Fiji, Tonga and Western Samoa. Early in the game against Tonga Welsh flanker Mark Brown was flattened by three Tongan forwards, leading to a mass brawl involving the entire team except Malcolm Dacey and Mark Titley. Robert Jones[disambiguation needed ] describes the event in his book Raising The Dragon as "the worst brawl I have ever seen on a rugby field." At the post-match dinner Jonathan Davies was asked to give a few words in Welsh and as the hosts politely applauded he described them as "the dirtiest team I have ever played against!"

Tonga were drawn to play Wales again in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. The previous meeting, plus the decision to rest some of the leading players, led to a poor Welsh performance though they managed to win 29–16. Tonga lost its other two games to Ireland (32–9) and Canada (37–4).

They failed to qualify for the 1991 Rugby World Cup. In 1994 they won the South Pacific championship on try count and so qualified for the Super 10, they finished bottom of their pool with only one point.

They qualified for the 1995 World Cup ahead of Fiji on points difference. Tonga managed only two victories in the next two World Cups, against the 29–11 Ivory Coast in 1995 and Italy in 1999. The win over the Ivory Coast brought tragedy when Ivory Coast winger Max Brito was left prone on the turf and has used a wheelchair ever since.

June 1999 brought their greatest home victory, a 20–16 defeat of France in Nukuʻalofa over a touring France but in 2000 they were humiliated 102–0 (including 15 tries) by New Zealand. As seen from this type of results, Tonga is fierce upon home games and manage to face great difficulties on away games.

After losing their first four matches to Fiji and Samoa, Tonga finished third in the Oceania qualifying group. As a result they had to play home and away matches against Papua New Guinea, which they won 47–14 and 84–12, followed by a play-off against South Korea, who finished as runners-up in the Asian section. Tonga thrashed them 75–0 and 119–0.

At the 2003 Rugby World Cup Tonga lost all their games and finished bottom of their pool. Despite keeping Wales to 20–27, they were again thrashed by New Zealand 91–7.

In 2007 Tonga participated in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, winning 2 of their pool matches and nearly defeating the eventual champions, South Africa, in one of the most memorable and exciting games of the tournament, eventually going down 30–25.

Tonga achieved one of the greatest victories in Rugby World Cup history with their 19 - 14 win over France in the 2011 World Cup. Which was one of the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history.

Sipi Tau

Like a lot of the big Pacific rugby nations, Tonga has a pre-game war dance (Haka). The Sipi Tau is a form of the Kailao. Tonga perform the kailao/Sipi Tau prior to the commencement of a match. The kailao was originally a war dance that was imported to Tonga from Wallis Island. It is usually performed at both public and private ceremonies.

One of the most memorable performances in modern times of the Sipi Tau was during the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, in Tonga's match against the All Blacks. The All Blacks began their traditional haka, and then Tonga answered to the haka through the sipi tau whilst the All Blacks were performing it, bringing the teams within metres of one another just prior to kick-off.[1]

Tongan squad selectors have surprised their supporters in the past but the exclusion of regular starter and captain since 2009, Kirk Watton-Green III from the world cup 2011 squad has caused a lot of controversy back on the island. Watton-Green III has been left out due to his recent signing for Exeter Chiefs in England according to selectors but there have been rumours that it may be down to the bad boy tag that comes with him.

Overall Record

Top 20 Rankings as of 7 November 2011[2]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 steady  New Zealand 91.43
2 steady  Australia 87.42
3 steady  France 84.70
4 steady  South Africa 84.34
5 steady  England 81.58
6 steady  Ireland 80.65
7 steady  Argentina 80.28
8 steady  Wales 80.18
9 steady  Tonga 76.63
10 steady  Scotland 76.20
11 steady  Samoa 75.81
12 steady  Italy 73.99
13 steady  Canada 72.92
14 steady  Georgia 71.09
15 steady  Japan 70.45
16 steady  Fiji 68.78
17 steady  United States 65.63
18 steady  Romania 63.98
19 steady  Namibia 61.24
20 steady  Portugal 60.67
*Change from the previous week
Tonga's Historical Rankings
Tonga IRB World Rankings.png
Source: IRB - Graph updated to 07/11/2011[2]

Their Test match record against all nations, updated to 09 September 2011, is as follows:[3]

Nation Games Won Lost Drawn Percentage of wins
 Australia 4 1 3 0 25%
 Canada 6 2 4 0 25%
 Chile 1 1 0 0 100%
 Cook Islands 3 0 3 0 0%
 England 2 0 2 0 0%
 Fiji 85 27 55 3 31.7%
 France 4 2 2 0 50%
 Georgia 2 1 1 0 50%
 Ireland 2 0 2 0 0%
 Italy 3 1 2 0 33.3%
 Ivory Coast 1 1 0 0 100%
 Japan 11 7 4 0 64%
 South Korea 6 6 0 0 100%
 Namibia 1 1 0 0 100%
 New Caledonia 1 1 0 0 100%
 New Zealand 4 0 4 0 0%
 New Zealand Māori[4] 12 4 8 0 33.3%
 Portugal 1 1 0 0 100%
 Papua New Guinea 2 2 0 0 100
 Samoa 42 17 23 2 40.4%
 Scotland 2 0 2 0 0%
 Solomon Islands 1 1 0 0 100%
 South Africa 2 0 2 0 0%
 Tahiti 1 1 0 0 100%
 United States 4 3 1 0 75%
 Wales 6 0 6 0 0%
 Zimbabwe 1 1 0 0 100%
Total 214 89 120 5 44%

Current squad

Tonga's 30-man RWC squad was announced on 23 August. Chairman Bob Tuckey allegedly resigned over the proposed selection of former captain Nili Latu. [5]

  • Caps and ages relevant to start of World Cup.

Head Coach: New Zealand Isitolo Maka
Note: Flags indicate national union for the club/province as defined by the International Rugby Board.

Player Position Date of Birth (Age) Caps Club/province
Aleki Lutui Hooker 1 July 1978 (aged 33) 30 England Worcester Warriors
Ilaisa Ma'asi Hooker 5 February 1982 (aged 29) 7 New Zealand Counties Manukau
Ephraim Taukafa Hooker 26 June 1976 (aged 35) 30 France Mont-de-Marsan
Halani Aulika Prop 31 August 1983 (aged 28) 2 New Zealand Highlanders
Taufa'ao Filise Prop 26 May 1977 (aged 34) 15 Wales Cardiff Blues
Kisi Pulu Prop 31 January 1978 (aged 33) 23 France Perpignan
Sona Taumalolo Prop 13 November 1981 (aged 29) 4 New Zealand Chiefs
Soane Tonga'uiha Prop 21 January 1982 (aged 29) 8 England Northampton Saints
Paino Hehea Lock 1 February 1979 (aged 32) 16 France Lyon
Tukulua Lokotui Lock 31 December 1979 (aged 31) 5 Japan Kintetsu Liners
Sione Timani Lock 3 September 1984 (aged 27) 7 Wales Scarlets
Joe Tuineau Lock 18 August 1981 (aged 30) 4 New Zealand Southland
Finau Maka (c) Flanker 10 July 1977 (aged 34) 5 France Pamiers
Samiu Vahafolau Flanker 24 April 1978 (aged 33) 10 France Béziers
Sione Vaiomo'unga Flanker 8 April 1989 (aged 22) 7 Tonga Toloa Old Boys
Sione Kalamafoni Number 8 18 May 1988 (aged 23) 14 England Nottingham
Viliami Ma'afu Number 8 9 March 1982 (aged 29) 5 Japan Mitsubishi
Samisoni Fisilau Scrum-half 29 November 1987 (aged 23) 7 New Zealand Counties Manukau
Taniela Moa Scrum-half 11 March 1985 (aged 26) 2 France Pau
Tomasi Palu Scrum-half 23 September 1986 (aged 24) 3 New Zealand Norths
Kurt Morath Fly-half 13 November 1984 (aged 26) 9 Australia Souths
Alipate Fatafehi Centre 13 December 1984 (aged 26) 7 France Lyon
Suka Hufanga Centre 18 June 1982 (aged 29) 22 England Newcastle
Andrew Ma'ilei Centre 24 May 1980 (aged 31) 18 France Bordeaux
Siale Piutau Centre 13 October 1985 (aged 25) 2 New Zealand Highlanders
William Helu Wing 19 April 1986 (aged 25) 7 England Bristol Rugby
Alaska Taufa Wing 24 July 1983 (aged 28) 5 Japan Akita
Fetu'u Vainikolo Wing 30 January 1985 (aged 26) 2 Ireland Connacht
Viliame Iongi Fullback 8 August 1989 (aged 22) 9 Wales Scarlets
Vunga Lilo (vc) Fullback 28 February 1983 (aged 28) 21 France Bordeaux

Notable former players

Notable players from other countries of Tongan Decent

All Blacks

England

  • Leslie Vainikolo

Wallabies

Wales

  • Toby Faletau

Notes

  1. ^ Haka and Sipi Tau set Lang Park alight ABC
  2. ^ a b "World Rankings". International Rugby Board. http://www.irb.com/rankings/full.html. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  3. ^ RugbyData.com – International Rugby Union Statistics – Statistics for Tonga – Teams Played
  4. ^ Although the New Zealand Maori are not New Zealand's national representative team (see All Blacks) many Test nations award their players Test caps when playing them.
  5. ^ "Tonga name 30, chairman resigns?". Planet Rugby. 2011-08-23. http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3551_7119051,00.html. 

See also

Sources

External links


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