Twenty of the players who helped Tonga finish third in the recent World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup have been selected for the country’s Rugby World Cup 2015 squad.
Among them are scrum-half Sonatane Takulua and winger Fetu’u Vainikolo who finished as joint top try-scorers – along with Fijian second-row Leone Nakarawa – in the Pacific Nations Cup with four.
Three players who made their debut in that competition in Telusa Veainu, Viliami Tahitu’a and Sosefo Ma’ake have also made the cut for coach Mana Otai’s squad, which still has place for one more player.
The experienced Nili Latu and Hale T-Pole were part of that Pacific Nations Cup squad and more familiar names to make the RWC 2015 squad include David Halaifonua, Sione Kalamafoni, Aleki Lutui and Paula Ngauomo.
The squad was announced by Tonga Rugby Union President Epi Taione – himself a veteran of two Rugby World Cups for the ‘Ikale Tahi in 1999 and 2007.
The ‘Ikale Tahi have already arrived in England for a training camp in Surrey and will face English Championship side Nottingham on 28 August and then Romania in Bucharest on 5 September as part of their preparations.
Tonga will face defending champions New Zealand, Argentina, Georgia and Namibia in Pool C with the ‘Ikale Tahi kicking off their campaign against the Lelos in Gloucester on 19 September.
They then face Namibia in Exeter (29 September), Argentina in Leicester on 4 October and New Zealnad in Newcastle five days later and will be hoping to cause another surprise like they did at RWC 2011 by beating France in the pool stages.
Tonga RWC 2015 squad:
Tevita Mailau, Alisona Taumalolo, Soane Tonga’uiha, Halani Aulika, Sila Puafisi, Elvis Taione, Paula Ngauamo, Aleki Lutui, Tukulua Lokotui, Joseph Tuineau, Steve Mafi, Opeti Fonua, Hale T-Pole, Nili Latu, Jack Ram, Viliami Ma’afu, Sione Kalamafoni, Sonatane Takulua, Samisoni Fisilau, Sosefo Ma’ake, Kurt Morath, Latiume Fosita, Sione Piukala, Siale Piutau, Viliame Tahitu’a, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Telusa Veainu, Tevita Halaifonua, William Helu, Vungakoto Lilo.
Tickets are still available for RWC 2015. For details click here.