Tonga national rugby league team

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Badge of Tonga team
Nickname Mate Ma'a
Governing body Tongan Rugby League
Region Oceania
Head coach Charlie Tonga
Captain Brent Kite
Home stadium Mangweni Stadium
RLIF ranking 9th
First international
 Western Samoa 16–34 Tonga 
(Rarotonga, Cook Islands; 1986)
Biggest win
 Tokelau 0–62 Tonga 
(Auckland, New Zealand; December 2006
Biggest defeat
 New Zealand 74–0 Tonga 
(Auckland, New Zealand; 27 October 1999)
World Cup
Appearances 4 (first time in 1995)
Best result Group stage, 1995; 2000; 2008; 2013

The Tonga national rugby league team is a national sporting side, representing Tonga in rugby league football. Rugby league is a popular sport in Tonga, and the national team has become one of the best performed nations in the world. Tonga competes biennually with other several other Pacific Islands nations in the Pacific Cup a competition they have won outright on two occasions, along with finishing as the runner-up on another two. They are the ninth-ranked team in the world currently, behind nations that include the "big three" rugby league nations in Australia, New Zealand and England. Tonga to date have competed at two Rugby League World Cups in 1995 and 2000 and were the first team to qualify for the 2008 tournament.

Rugby league was introduced to Tonga in 1986 with the staging of the Pacific Cup in Rarotonga and in 1988 the national side played its first Test match against Western Samoa in Apia. Since then Tonga has played regularly against the Pacific Islands nations and on a less regular basis against nations such England, France and New Zealand.

While Tonga have always been a well performed rugby nation since their début match in 1988 it is more recently where they have made their most serious progress in the international game. They finished second in the inaugural Federation Shield in 2006 where they beat both France and Samoa and since 1988 have qualified for two World Cups where Tonga have however performed unexceptionally and have failed to qualify beyond the group stages at the tournament.

Tonga traditionally play in a predominately red uniform with white sides and socks, they are commonly referred to as the mate ma'a Tonga which when translated means Die for Tonga. The Tongan emblem is a red and blue badge with a rugby ball and the mate ma'a written across it. Tonga internationals are played at a variety of venues throughout the country, though it is Mangweni Stadium in the capital of Nukuʻalofa that is most commonly used.


Rugby league would first gain attention in Tonga when the Pacific Cup would be partially held in the country during 1986. After this initial exposure to the Tongan people several clubs began to form or switch from rugby union to rugby league and by 1988 the nation had enough depth in their player pool to begin playing national fixtures and would enter the 1988 Pacific Cup competition held in Apia, Samoa. During that Pacific Cup the Tongans would play in three fixtures winning a sole match while losing the other two, with their first international victory coming against the American Samoa side a match that would end 38–14.

Over the next two years the national side would sporadically play international fixtures but it would not be until the 1992 Pacific Cup when they would again begin playing with some regularity. At the 1992 Cup competition the side would show significant improvement on their previous inaugural cup effort with victories over Niue, Cook Islands, Fiji and the New Zealand Maori.[1] This run of victories would earn them a place in the final of the 1992 Pacific Cup against the Western Samoan side but they would eventually lose a close fought match by four points 18–14. The following tournament two years later would see the Tongan side show further improvement with several comfortable victories again earning them a spot in final of the Pacific Cup this time against the Fijians who had never defeated the Tongans at that time. The final was a tough affair but the Mate Ma'a were again victorious over Fiji 34–11 and claimed their maiden Pacific Cup title.

Official Rankings as of July 2014[2]
Rank Change Team Points
1 Steady  Australia 1,186.00
2  New Zealand 743.00
3  England 554.00
4  France 249.00
5  Fiji 196.00
6  Wales 176.00
7 Increase  Samoa 157.00
8 Decrease  Papua New Guinea 152.00
9 Increase  United States 137.00
10 Decrease  Ireland 125.00
11 Steady  Scotland 101.00
12  Italy 84.00
13  Tonga 54.00
14 Increase  Russia 53.00
15 Decrease  Cook Islands 48.00
16 Steady  Canada 43.00
17  Serbia 40.00
18  Germany 29.00
19  Norway 29.00
20 Increase  Ukraine 23.00
21 Decrease  Lebanon 23.00
22 Increase  Belgium 20.00
23 Decrease  Malta 19.00
24  Jamaica 16.00
25  Netherlands 14.00
26 Increase  Greece 10.00
27 Steady  Denmark 9.00
28 Increase New  Spain 9.00
29 Decrease  South Africa 7.00
30  Czech Republic 6.00
31  Latvia 2.00
32  Sweden 1.00
33  Hungary 1.00
34  Morocco 0.00

During 1995 Tonga qualified for their first World Cup and were seeded in the strong group B with both New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. While Tonga failed to win a match at the World Cup they earned respect after they narrowly lost to the New Zealand team by a single point and earnt a draw against Papua New Guinea.

Tonga performing the Sipi Tau

The next four years would see the Tongan side appear in a further Pacific Cup in 1997 and then qualify for the 2000 World Cup with comfortable victories over the Cook Islands, Tokelau and American Samoa. Prior to appearing at the 2000 competition the Tongans arranged a friendly fixture against the New Zealand side that they had come so close to defeating during the previous World Cup but would this time face their heaviest defeat to date going down 74-0 and suffering a large dent in confidence prior to the competition.

After the heavy defeat to New Zealand their next international fixture would be during their second World Cup where the Tongans would again be placed in another tough group with France, Papua New Guinea again and the South Africans. Tonga would face South Africa in their first match of the tournament where they would be comfortable victors in a 66-18 drubbing, however the rest of the tournament would not be so kind to the Tongan side with loses to both France and Papua New Guinea meaning the Tongans would again fail to make it past the first stage of the tournament.

With a disappointing World Cup behind them the Mate Ma'a would regroup and again enter the Pacific Cup four years later in 2004. The tournament saw the Tongans again qualify for the tournament final with victories over both the Cook Islands and Fiji but the side would suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of neighbouring Samoa 51-18. 2006 saw the Tongan side re-enter the Pacific Cup where again they performed strongly qualifying for their second consecutive final where this time they would reverse their previous effort with a strong victory over Fiji 22-4 giving them their second Pacific Cup title. 2006 would continue to be a busy year of international fixtures for the Tongans which saw them gain qualification into the 2008 World Cup after they would finish top of their Pacific group ahead of the Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa and then defeat the Samoans 18-10 in the qualifying final. They would also enter the inaugural Federation Shield competition along with England, France and Samoa and eventually finish second. England to face Tonga in League final] to the English in the final 32-14 after they had defeated both France and Samoa.

2013 Pacific Rugby League Test[edit]

In April 2013, Tonga took on Samoa in the '2013 Pacific Rugby League Test' at Penrith Stadium. The International was created as a World Cup warm-up match. Tonga targeted Samoa's weak defence, and it paid off, thrashing the Toa Samoans by 36-4.

2013 Rugby League World Cup campaign[edit]

Tonga automatically qualified for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup after participating in the 2008 tournament. They took on Scotland, Italy and the Cook Islands in the pool stage. In their first match they took on 'the Scots'. It was a tight and intense rugby league battle, but it was the Scots who eventually prevailed, winning 26-24. Tonga would the go on and beat 'the Kukis', 22-16, and Italy, 16-0, but it wasn't enough. Scotland would finish the group stage unbeaten, sealing their place in the quarter-final and ending Tonga's World Cup campaign in the process.

2013 World Cup Squad[edit]

Tonga Squad for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, where they will be against Scotland, Italy and then play an Inter-group game against the Cook Islands.

2013 World Cup Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

  • (c) Captain
  • (vc) Vice captain

Updated: 8 October 2013
Source(s): 2013 World Cup Squad

Notable former players[edit]

Since rugby league has been known to the nation of Tonga officially in 1988 many players of Tongan birth or heritage have gone on to attain notability in representing either Tonga, other nations or appear in major domestic leagues around the world, some of the more notable Tongans have included:

Duane Mann Hooker Parental heritage Former Tonga National Coach & Kiwi Captain

Tonga Player 1986 - 2000

Jim Dymock Lock, Five-eighth Parental heritage Former National Coach
1995 World Cup winner
Supi Save Wing Born Nukuʻalofa, Tonga Former Tonga & Australia international
1995 World Cup winner
Willie Mason Prop, Second-row Parental heritage Former Tonga & current Australia international
2000 World Cup
Willie Tonga Centre, Wing Parental heritage former Australia international
Tevita Vaikona Wing Born Nukuʻalofa, Tonga Former Tonga international
2000 World Cup
Michael Jennings Centre, Wing, Fullback Parental heritage Former Tonga & Australia international
2008 World Cup
Brent Kite Prop, Second-row Parental heritage 2013 Tonga captain & former Australia international
2000 World Cup, 2008 World cup runners up
Tony Williams Second-row, Lock, Wing, Centre Parental heritage Former Tonga & current Australia international
2008 World cup
Lesley Vainikolo Wing Born Nukuʻalofa, Tonga Former New Zealand Rugby League
& England Rugby Union International.
Israel Folau Centre, Wing Parental heritage Former Australia international & GWS AFL player
Current NSW Warratahs Rugby union player. 2008 World Cup
Fuifui Moimoi Prop Born Nuku'alofa, Tonga Current New Zealand International
Antonio Kaufusi Prop, Second-row Born Montahau, Tonga 2008 World Cup


1994, 2006

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1992 Pacific Cup (New Zealand) International Competitions Website Retrieved on 18 May 2007.
  2. ^ RLIF; RLIF Rankings

External links[edit]