‘We are the only team’ – Tonga rue poor Rugby World Cup preparation

Tonga did not face any tier-one opposition ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which has hurt their preparations for the tournament.

The Pacific Islanders faced Japan, Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup before playing back-to-back matches against Canada, who failed to qualify for the World Cup.

The ʻIkale Tahi faced world number one Ireland in their Pool B opener and were soundly beaten 59-16 by Andy Farrell’s charges, that fixture coming an entire month after their final warm-up game against Canada.

Tonga assistant coach Dale MacLeod believes they were not sufficiently prepared for the World Cup because his side did not face tier-one opposition.

Ahead of their second World Cup fixture against Scotland, MacLeod was asked if they needed a match against one of the Rugby Championship or Six Nations sides as a warm-up game.

“One hundred per cent,” MacLeod said. “I think we are the only team who didn’t play a tier one nation or come early and play a game.

“We tried to organise one, but then they couldn’t do it. I suppose we got two games against Canada – you have to do what you have to do.

“It didn’t set us up for where we needed to be, but when you go into a World Cup and you’ve had a month off, that is tough for anyone.

He added: “We’ll be better next week, and the week after, we’ll probably be hitting [our stride] by our last game, which is not quite right.”