Tonga receive hero's welcome on arrival to Auckland

The Tongan rugby league road show has rolled into Auckland, with thousands of fans greeting the players at Auckland Airport.

It was a sea of red and white on Monday night, in scenes reminiscent of the 2011 Rugby World Cup when Tongan fans brought the tournament to life.

One-Test Kiwi Tuimoala Lolohea - who recently commented he feels more pride playing for Tonga than New Zealand - said the moment the team walked through the arrival gate was overwhelming.

"All the fans showing up to show their support, it means a lot," Lolohea said.

"I'm kind of speechless at the moment. Very excited".

Tonga launched their tournament campaign in style on Sunday, thrashing Scotland 50-4 in Cairns.

Hamilton will play host to Tonga on Saturday when they take on Samoa, in what is one of the most anticipated games of the group stages and is likely to be a ferocious encounter.

The Tongan side includes former Kiwi stars Manu Vatuvei, David Fusitua, Sika Manu and Jason Taumalolo, who sensationally switched allegiances two days before the squads were announced.

The Mangere-born North Queensland Cowboys star is enjoying the ride with the country of his parents' birth.

"To everyone here supporting the Tongans, thank you so much for making us feel at home," Taumalolo told fans on Monday night.

"We want to do is play for a little country and make us proud."

The Tongan side face the Kiwis on November, also at Hamilton's Waikato stadium on November 11.


Photo Tonganow Online