Ikale Tahi

Tonga bounce back to end PNC with win

Both sides had lost their previous two PNC matches, but it was the Tongans who held on for victory at Lautoka's Churchil Park.

Tonga were blown off the park last week 41-7 by a speedy and physical Japan team, and in the opening stages of Friday's match it seemed they had taken a leaf out of the Brave Blossom's book, racing away to a 19-8 half-time lead through tries to outside backs David Halaifonua and Viliami Lolohea and new centre Malietoa Hingano.

Tonga make changes for PNC final round

The two sides meet in the last round of the Pacific Nations Cup in Lautoka.

Kefu has made four changes made to the forward pack which was soundly beaten in Osaka last week.

Paula Ngauamo and Siua Halanukonuka comes into the front row and former Hurricane lock Sam Lousi returns from injury forcing Sitiveni Mafi to move into the loose forwards.

Zane Kapeli will start at number eight instead of Maama Vaipulu, while James Faiva and Malietoa Hingano take their place in the backline at first five and centre respectively.

Ikale Tahi to work on lifting fitness levels

It was a much better playing surface this time than the mud-bath Tonga endured in their loss to Samoa at Apia Park but Japan, sporting at least five Tongans of their own, showed their world cup preparations were well on track outclassing the Ikale Tahi in both attack and defence.

Despite the scoreline however Toutai Kefu said there were some positives he thought the team could build on.

Pitau returns to captain Tonga

Piutau was absent from last weekend’s loss against Samoa, with Elvis Taione given the captain’s armband in his absence.

Former Highlander and current Benetton representative Nasi Manu was originally named to captain last week’s side, but was changed late in the week.

Taione will be given a rest this weekend. Instead, Sosefo Sakalia will pack down at hooker with Ma’afu Fia taking Ben Tameifuna’s spot on the tighthead.

The Toutai Kefu coached side will feature most of its experience players such as Cooper Vuna, Steve Mafi, Siale Piutau to name a few.

Samoa and Tonga turned down chance to play rugby test elsewhere

Manu Samoa beat Tonga 25-17 on Saturday afternoon in wet and muddy ground conditions, which raised questions from players about the decision-making and player safety processes prior to the match.

Pacific Rugby Players' Association CEO Aayden Clarke said players from both teams were briefed about the weather conditions during a training camp in Auckland earlier this month, while officials from World Rugby raised the prospect of playing the game offshore, with no other grounds in Samoa meeting international standard.

Tonga take positives from challenging Northern Tour

Tonga opened their account by beating the French Barbarians before a 74-24 drubbing by Wales and a 20-9 defeat against Georgia.

Kefu said a host of injuries didn't help their cause but he still believed the team was on the right track.

"If you look at the Wales game the score got away from us probably in the last 20-25 minutes but we were head-to-head up until about the 50 minute mark," he said.

'Ikale Tahi excited to face All Blacks

Tonga will take on the world champions in a one-off Test in Hamilton on Saturday 7 September.

The Kingdom have not beaten New Zealand in five previous tests, with four of those coming during Rugby World Cup pool stages.

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu said next year's match would be a special occasion.

"That will cap off our preparation before we get to Japan so by then we should have a very good squad and would have had probably eight weeks of training underneath our belt," Kefu said.

Two debutants to start for Tonga vs Georgia

The Bay of Plenty loose forward and Taranaki utility back came off the bench against the French Barbarians two weeks ago but will start for the 'Ikale Tahi in Tbilisi, in place of Sione Vailanu, who drops to the reserves and captain Siale Piutau, who has returned to his club side Bristol.

In the only other change to the starting fifteen thumped 74-24 by Wales, Sefo Sakalia replaces Paula Ngauamo at hooker.

Hooker Sione Anga'aelangi is set to make his first test appearance since 2016 off the bench.

'Ikale Tahi lament costly mistakes in Cardiff

The Kingdom fought back from three tries down to level the scores just after half-time in Cardiff before conceding 50 unanswered points to lose 74-24.

Flanker Dan Faleafa said there were good and bad things about their performance.

"We showed some good attitude after having a yellow card and being down almost 20 points we showed some good resilience to get back and get back up to 24-all after half-time," he said.

One change, one debutant in 'Ikale Tahi team vs Wales

The Castres Olympique second-rower will earn his 28th test cap for the Kingdom in place of Sam Ulufonua, who made his international debut in last weekend's 49-38 win over the French Barbarians.

The 28-year-old Mafi is one of eight players who started the 'Ikale Tahi's last test, a 27-19 victory over Fiji in June, and was also one of eight who played in the 24-6 defeat by Wales in Auckland last year.