Tonga look to make winning start v Baabaas

Tonga begin their Northern Hemisphere rugby tour against the Barbarians in Limerick overnight.


The 'Ikale Tahi will face a Baabaas squad that led 17-5 against the All Blacks last weekend before eventually sucumming 31-22.

The Barbarians have named a completely new forward pack from the team beaten at Twickenham, while Nic Stirzaker and Robert du Preez form a new halves pairing and Fiji-born Australia wing Taqele Naiyaravoro starts on the right wing in place of the injured Julian Savea.

The Tongan squad has been in Ireland for close to two weeks and coach Toutai Kefu said they were ready to get underway.

"I think half of that squad also played against Japan the week before so we've got three very hard games and a really good game to start the tour on," he said.

"We've had some decent amount of prep time and we've had time to acclimatise up here so we're looking good. It looks like a tough game: a lot of All Blacks in that team so it's definitely not going to be easy.

"But it leads us into the Japan game really well so we will be doing our best to do really well and hopefully get a positive result."

The 'Ikale Tahi confirmed their place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in July and Toutai Kefu said the November tour, which also includes tests against Japan and Romania, was the first step towards the tournament in Japan.

He said World Rugby had been fantastic towards the team, following last month's decision by Tonga's Supreme Court to declare the positions of the TRU Board, CEO and President void.

"They've had a big hand in helping myself and the team manager put the tour together," he said.

"I think in Tonga they're going to have an AGM in December, which will obviously select a new board, the CEO, the chairman.

"And hopefully, from then on in, we can start working together to maybe put this strategic plan in place and hopefully reap some rewards or benefits in two years time."


Photo: PHOTOSPORT Tonga have mixed wins over Samoa with losses against Wales and Fiji in 2017.