In France, the Tonga want to write their own chapter of their nation’s history
Rugby World Cup : The Tonga national team’s head coach, Toutai Kefu, has said categorically that the Tongans would not be attending the 2023 Rugby World Cup only to pad the roster.
The ‘Ikale Tahi won the Asia/Pacific 1 play-off against Hong Kong on Saturday, 44-22, at the Sunshine Stadium in Queensland, Australia, guaranteeing themselves a spot in Pool B in next year’s tournament.
Tonga couldn’t have asked for a harder start, as they faced up against Ireland, the top side in the World Rugby Men’s rankings powered by Capgemini, in Nantes on September 16th.
Tonga will play Scotland in Nice on September 24 before traveling to Marseille to take on the current champions, South Africa, a week later.
The match against Romania on October 8 in Lille will be Tonga’s last in the group stage, but Kefu believes it won’t be their last.
After the dust cleared after their qualifying victory, Kefu said, “Pretty hard teams, really challenging pool, but that’s okay.”
To advance to the next level, you must surround yourself with strong teams. I believe we can shock a couple teams if we stay in the game and are still in contention midway through the second half.
Close call in 2011
In 2007 and 2011, Tonga won two Pool games, which was their best showing at a Rugby World Cup.
In the latter, the ‘Ikale Tahi had a chance to advance to the knockout rounds after beating Japan and earning a lost bonus point against Canada before their last group game against France.
They overcame Les Bleus 19-14 against all odds, but they still finished two points behind the leaders and so missed out on the final eight.
They want to advance one round in France with the help of players like Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa.
We won’t be satisfied only by being there in the World Cup. More is what we’re after. In order to advance, we need to win one or two of our pool games,” Kefu remarked.
When the time comes, Tonga will have to play better than they did against Hong Kong.
Tonga should have put the game away in the first half, but two missed attempts and some sloppy play in the red zone let Hong Kong off the hook, and it wasn’t until the third quarter that they finally pulled away.
We were told to relax as a team at halftime. Kefu said that his teams confidence came from knowing they were the superior side and only had to maintain composure and command the tempo of play.
If we played to even half our potential, we knew we could qualify for the World Cup.