Tonga A's Pacific Challenge campaign hampered by Gita

The Tonga A rugby coach, Isi Fatani, says his team's build-up for the Pacific Challenge was severely handicapped by last month's Cyclone Gita.

The Tongans have lost consecutive games handsomely and sit at the bottom of the four team table with one round to go.

But Fatani said the cyclone really disrupted their preparation and led to a less than ideal tournament.

"Hurricane Gita hit us and affected our preparation.

"That whole week we didn't have any training at all," he said.

"So I was concerned about fitness, a lack of fitness, we had no time to catch up with the boys and train before we came to the tournament."

Fatani said four key players were also unavailable for the tournament after picking up injuries during the post-cyclone clean-up.

"When the house was destroyed by the hurricane [one player] tried to clean up the mess and he stepped on a nail," he said.

"One of our locks, he was trying to move all the tin roof from his house which was destroyed and he got a cut hand.

"One of our props sprained his ankle trying to clean the trees and breadfruit and everything like that from the house," Fatani said.

Fatani said, to make matters worse, he was only told shortly before the tournament that its format involved using players under the age of 23.

"In January we started training with my old Tonga A team," he said.

"I was very disappointed, the Friday before we came that [World Rugby] needed under 23s to come here to this tournament in Fiji.

"We tried to collect an under 23 back in Tonga but we struggled with that and we picked 17 year old boys just to complete the squad."

Fatani's team now have the added challenge of playing the host team, Fiji Warriors, who are defending champions and undefeated.

The two play on Saturday with Junior Japan and Samoa A meeting in the early game.