National Tonga rugby World Cup team History and Achievements

The Tonga rugby world cup team represents Tonga in the men’s international rugby union. The team was nicknamed “Ikale Tahi” (“Sea Eagles”). Like their Polynesian neighbors, the Tongans start their matches with a traditional piece of art, the Sipi Tau. They are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) along with Fiji and Samoa. Ikale Tahi had a historic 19–14 victory over France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup but, after losing to New Zealand and Canada, failed to achieve what would have been their first quarter-final presence.

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Like other Pacific island nations, rugby union was first introduced to Tonga by sailors and missionaries in the 1920s, and an international team was officially established in 1923. The Tonga rugby team then played their first game in 1924 in a Test match against Fiji. , beating them 9-6. In the decades that followed, Tonga’s international games were played mainly against nearby Pacific nations, and it wasn’t until the late 60s and early 70s that they traveled to Australia and Europe.

These tours were often quite intense and the Tonga rugby team developed a reputation for being quite aggressive. However, this did not hurt their rugby prowess as the team was invited to take part in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 where they finished in the pool stage.

To date, Tonga has yet to finish higher in the Rugby World Cup tournament, but they have competed in every competition except the 1991 tournament. This led to some memorable performances from the outside, such as a surprising 19-13 victory over France in 2011.

Between 1924 and 1938, Tonga and Fiji conducted three test series every two years. Matches between the two Pacific nations were tough; many have argued that the ancient internecine wars between the islanders have been transferred to the rugby field. Problems during the third round of the 1928 Test of Fiji in Tonga forced the game to be abandoned with Tonga leading 11–8. In 1954, Tonga hosted the tour of Western Samoa.

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Tonga beat the New Zealand Māori in 1969, but they had to wait until 1973 before they played their second test match, a 30–12 defeat against Australia in Sydney. They got revenge when they beat Australia at Ballymore, Brisbane 16–11, scoring four tries to two in June 1973. -7 defeat.

The first Tongan tour to the UK came in 1974 when they played 10 games including in Wales against East Wales, Llanelli, North Wales, Newport, West Wales and Wales XV. The only win on the tour was 18–13 in the first leg against East Wales. The Trials were lost 44–8 to Scotland XV and 26–7 to Wales XV.

They remained an obscure number in Europe until 1986 when Wales went on tour in Fiji, Tonga and Western Samoa. Early in the game against Tonga, Welsh flanker Mark Brown was knocked down by three Tongan strikers, leading to a mass brawl involving the entire team except Malcolm Dacey and Mark Titley. Robert Jones describes the event in his book Raising the Dragon as the worst fight I’ve ever seen on a rugby field. At the post-match dinner, Jonathan Davies was asked to speak a few words in Welsh and, as the hosts applauded politely, he called them the dirtiest team I’ve ever played against.

Tonga were again drawn to play Wales in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. The previous meeting, as well as the decision to rest some of the leading players, resulted in a poor performance for the Welsh, although they managed to win 29–16. Tonga lost the other two games to Ireland (32–9) and Canada (37–4).

They failed to qualify for the 1991 Rugby World Cup. In 1994, they won the South Pacific Trial Scoring Championship and thus qualified for the Super 10, in which they finished last in their pool with just one point. They qualified for the 1995 World Cup ahead of Fiji on points difference. Tonga had only two wins in their next two World Cups, against Ivory Coast 29–11 in 1995 and Italy in 1999. The victory over the Ivory Coast turned into a tragedy when the Ivorian winger Max Brito was left paralyzed.

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In June 1999, France were defeated 20–16 in Nuku’alofa due to a tour of France, but in 2000 they were defeated by New Zealand 102–0 (including 15 tries). After losing their first four matches to Fiji and Samoa, Tonga finished third in the Oceania qualifying group. As a result, they had to play home and away matches against Papua New Guinea, which they won 47–14 and 84–12, followed by a play-off against South Korea, who finished second in the Asian section. Tonga crushed them 75–0 and 119–0.

At the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Tonga lost all of their games and finished last in their pool. Although they kept Wales to 20–27, they again lost to New Zealand 91–7. In 2007, Tonga participated in the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning two pool matches and nearly defeating eventual champions South Africa before losing 30–25.

Tonga scored one of the most surprising wins in Rugby World Cup history when they defeated France 19–14 in the 2011 World Cup. On 24 November 2012, Tonga beat Scotland at the Pittodrie Stadium 21–15, their first win against traditional rugby power on a European ground.

Popularity

Rugby union is the national sport of Tonga and, like the rest of Polynesia, is a way of life. Although Tongans are rugby fans and players, their small population means that, like Pacific island neighbors Samoa and Fiji, Tonga has a limited but talented player pool and sometimes struggles with the resources and numbers of larger nations. Young talents often emigrate or are poached to countries that offer great prospects for personal success, such as New Zealand, Australia and Europe. However, all three countries far outnumber their core populations.

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The International Rugby Board (IRB) estimates that there are a total of 800 senior players registered in Tonga and twice as many junior players. Rugby is popular in national schools and students from schools such as Tonga College and Tupou College are regularly offered scholarships from New Zealand, Australia and Japan. For more know about Rugby World Cup Tickets.

Many players are of Tongan origin, for example. Jonah Lomu, Israel Folau, William “William” Ofaengaue, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Afeaki, Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Sekope Kepu, George Smith, Wycliffe Palu, Sitaleki Timani, Salesi Maafu, Anthony and Saya Faingaa, Mark Gerrard, Cooper Vuna, Doug Howlett, Tutai Kefu and Tatafu Polota-Nau played for either the All Blacks or the Wallabies.

British and Irish lion and Wales international Taulupe “Toby” Faletau was born in Tonga and is the son of Tongan international Kuli Faletau. Taulupe cousins ​​and England internationals Billy and Mako Vunipola (who is also a British and Irish lion) are the sons of former Tong rugby captain Feao Vunipola. Finau Maka, Telusa Veainu, Lopeti Timani, Charles Richelmann and Pita Alatini are also of Tongan origin.

The money returned by Tongan players playing rugby abroad is Tonga’s second largest export after squash.

Competitions

Datec Cup Provincial Championship

This is the highest level of domestic competition in Tongan Rugby Union and is a stepping stone for local players to international rugby.

Pacific Rugby Cup

The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup began in 2006 and features representative teams from the three Pacific rugby unions, Tonga, and Samoa and Fiji. The Tautahi Gold team from Tonga won the tournament in 2008. The purpose of the competition is to improve the quality of rugby in the Pacific Islands.

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National Team

The national team (Ikale Takhi) performed well in the international arena. Tonga beat Fiji 9–6 in their first Test in 1924, played in the capital Nuku’alofa. 1973 is arguably the high point for Tongan rugby when they beat Australia 16-11.

Tonga have competed in six Rugby World Cups since 1987. The 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups were Tonga’s most successful to date, with both winning two out of four matches and both having a chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

In the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Tonga won their first two matches against USA 25–15 and Samoa 19–15; and came very close to upsetting the eventual winners of the 2007 tournament, the South African Springboks, losing 30–25. A 36–20 loss to England in their last pool game ended their hopes of reaching the play-offs. However, after finishing third in their pool games behind South Africa and England, Tonga automatically qualified for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

In Group A of the 2011 RWC, Tonga beat Japan 31–18 and 5th [4] eventual finalist France 19–14 in the later stages of the group. However, a previous heavy loss to the All Blacks early in the tournament (41–10) and a subsequent heavy loss to Canada (25–20) meant Tonga lost to France (who also lost to New Zealand) in the quarter-finals. up to 2 bonus points and a difference of 46 points.

Tonga’s best results before 2007 came in 1995 when they beat the Ivory Coast 29–11 and in 1999 when they beat Italy 28–25 (though with only 14 men they lost heavily to England with a score of 101–10). Tonga lost the 1987 and 2003 Rugby World Cups and failed to qualify for the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

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Tonga used to compete in the Tri-Nation Pacific Tournament against Samoa and Fiji, which has now been replaced by the IRB Pacific Nations Cup now also involving Japan, Canada and the United States. At the club level, there is the provincial Datec Cup and the Pacific Rugby Cup. Rugby union is run by the Tonga Rugby Football Union which was also a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Union and contributed to the Pacific Islanders rugby union team before both were dissolved in 2009. Tonga performs Kailao (Sipi Tau) before their match.

History of the Tonga Legends

Since 2011, founder Robert van Trigt (a former Dutch rugby player) has spearheaded various rugby fundraising teams that have contributed to successful events in the European rugby world. He fell in love with Tonga rugby after attending the famous 2007 RWC match between South Africa and Tonga.

Following his passion for rugby, he met (former) professional rugby players from all over the world who joined him in fundraising through the beautiful sport of rugby. In 2019, after gaining a network of enthusiastic players who want to contribute to the right cause, he decided to start the Legends of Tonga initiative.

The first idea for a charity Tongan rugby team came as early as 2010, before any initiative had even begun. That same year, Robert contacted Catalimoni, a Tongan citizen with whom he has maintained a close relationship ever since. Catalimoni introduced Robert to many players who have joined his initiatives over the years and in 2017 when Robert had 4 Tongan players on one of his charity teams, the question was how many Tongan players were playing professional rugby in Europe ?

By joining forces, Robert and Catalimoni were able to identify at least 35 players who, after getting to know their initiative, signed up for Legends of Tonga and have been part of the team ever since.

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