Tonga national rugby union team

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To be distinguished from Tonga national rugby league team.
Tonga
Logo Tonga Rugby.svg
Union Tonga Rugby Football Union
Nickname(s) ʻIkale Tahi
Emblem(s) The White Dove
Coach(es) Tonga Mana Otai
Captain(s) Nili Latu
Most caps Elisi Vunipola (41)
Top scorer Pierre Hola (317)
Most tries Josh Taumalolo (14)
Team kit
Change kit
First international
 Tonga 9 – 6 Fiji 
(15 August 1924)
Largest win
 Tonga 119 – 0 South Korea 
(22 March 2003)
Largest defeat
 New Zealand 102 – 0 Tonga 
(16 June 2000)
World Cup
Appearances 6 (First in 1987)
Best result First round, third in pool 1995,2007 & 2011

The Tonga national rugby union team is nicknamed ʻIkale Tahi (Sea Eagles). Like their Polynesian neighbours, the Tongans start their matches with a war dance – the Sipi Tau. They are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance (PIRA) along with Fiji and Samoa. The Ikale Tahi achieved a historical 19 – 14 victory over France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but having lost to New Zealand and Canada, were unable to achieve what would have been their first ever presence at the quarter-finals. On 24 November 2012, Tonga beat Scotland, at Pittodrie Stadium, 21-15 for their first victory over a traditional rugby power on a European pitch.

History[edit]

Rugby was brought to the region in the early 20th Century by sailors and missionaries and the Tonga Rugby Football Union was formed in late 1923. Tonga beat Fiji 9–6 in their first test in 1924 played in the capital Nukuʻalofa. However, Tonga lost the second test 14–3 and drew the decider 0–0.

Between 1924 and 1938 Tonga and Fiji played three test series every alternate year. Matches between the two Pacific nations were hard fought; many have claimed that the ancient feuding wars between the Islanders were transplanted onto the rugby field. Troubles during the third Test of Fiji’s 1928 tour to Tonga forced the game to be abandoned with Tonga leading 11–8. In 1954 Tonga played host to a touring Western Samoa.

Tonga beat New Zealand Māori in 1969 but had to wait until 1973 before they played their second test match a 30–12 defeat against Australia in Sydney. They got their revenge when they beat Australia in Ballymore, Brisbane 16–11, scoring four tries to two in June 1973. The following year they travelled to the Arms Park for a non-cap international against Wales, a game that ended in a 26–7 defeat.

The first Tongan tour to Great Britain was in 1974 when they played 10 games, including those in Wales against East Wales, Llanelli, North Wales, Newport, West Wales and a Wales XV. The only tour victory was by 18–13 in the opener against East Wales. The 'tests' were lost by 44–8 to a Scotland XV and by 26–7 to the Wales XV.

They remained a little-known quantity in Europe until 1986 when Wales embarked on a tour of Fiji, Tonga and Western Samoa. Early in the game against Tonga Welsh flanker Mark Brown was flattened by three Tongan forwards, 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 brawl I have ever seen on a rugby field." At the post-match dinner Jonathan Davies was asked to give a few words in Welsh and as the hosts politely applauded he described them as "the dirtiest team I have ever played against!"

Tonga were drawn to play Wales again in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. The previous meeting, plus the decision to rest some of the leading players, led to a poor Welsh performance though they managed to win 29–16. Tonga lost its 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 championship on try count and so qualified for the Super 10, they finished bottom of their pool with only one point.

They qualified for the 1995 World Cup ahead of Fiji on points difference. Tonga managed only two victories in the next two World Cups, against the 29–11 Côte d'Ivoire in 1995 and Italy in 1999. The win over the Côte d'Ivoire brought tragedy when Ivorian winger Max Brito was left paralyzed.

June 1999 brought their greatest home victory, a 20–16 defeat of France in Nukuʻalofa over a touring France but in 2000 they were humiliated 102–0 (including 15 tries) by New Zealand.

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 as runners-up in the Asian section. Tonga thrashed them 75–0 and 119–0.

At the 2003 Rugby World Cup Tonga lost all their games and finished bottom of their pool. Despite keeping Wales to 20–27, they were again thrashed by New Zealand 91–7.

In 2007 Tonga participated in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, winning 2 of their pool matches and nearly defeating the eventual champions, South Africa, in one of the most memorable and exciting games of the tournament, eventually going down 30–25.

Tonga achieved one of the greatest victories in Rugby World Cup history with their 19 - 14 win over France in the 2011 World Cup.

On 24 November 2012, Tonga beat Scotland, at Pittodrie Stadium, 21-15 for their first victory over a traditional rugby power on a European pitch.

Sipi Tau[edit]

Main article: Kailao

Like a lot of the big Pacific rugby nations, Tonga has a pre-game war dance (Haka). The Sipi Tau is a form of the Kailao. Tonga perform the kailao/Sipi Tau prior to the commencement of a match. The kailao was originally a war dance that was imported to Tonga from Wallis Island. It is usually performed at both public and private ceremonies.

One of the most memorable performances in modern times of the Sipi Tau was during the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, in Tonga's match against the All Blacks. The All Blacks began their traditional haka, and then Tonga answered to the haka through the sipi tau whilst the All Blacks were performing it, bringing the teams within metres of one another just prior to kick-off.[1]

Tongan squad selectors have surprised their supporters in the past but the exclusion of regular starter and captain since 2009, Kirk Watton-Green III from the World Cup 2011 squad has caused a lot of controversy. Watton-Green III has been left out due to his recent signing for Exeter Chiefs in England according to selectors but there have been rumours that it may be down to the bad boy tag that comes with him.

Wins against Tier 1 nations[edit]

Overall Record[edit]

Top 25 Rankings as 7 July 2014[2]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 Steady  New Zealand 93.81
2 Steady  South Africa 89.34
3 Steady  Australia 86.94
4 Steady  England 85.68
5 Steady  Ireland 83.44
6 Steady  Wales 80.70
7 Steady  France 80.01
8 Steady  Scotland 77.78
9 Steady  Samoa 76.59
10 Steady  Japan 75.39
11 Steady  Fiji 74.56
12 Steady  Argentina 73.98
13 Steady  Tonga 72.58
14 Steady  Italy 70.92
15 Steady  Georgia 70.46
16 Steady  Romania 68.42
17 Steady  Canada 68.01
18 Steady  United States 67.30
19 Steady  Uruguay 62.89
20 Steady  Russia 62.06
21 Steady  Spain 60.65
22 Increase4  Namibia 57.78
23 Decrease1  Hong Kong 58.47
24 Decrease1  Portugal 57.73
25 Decrease1  South Korea 57.22
*Change from the previous week
Tonga's Historical Rankings
Tonga IRB World Rankings.png
Source: IRB - Graph updated to 20 May 2013[2]

Their Test match record against all nations, updated to 9 September 2011, is as follows:[3]

Team Mat Won Lost Draw  % For Aga Diff
 Australia 4 1 3 0 25.00 42 167 -125
 Australia A 1 0 1 0 0.00 15 60 -45
 Canada 7 2 5 0 28.57 127 175 -48
 Chile 1 1 0 0 100.00 32 30 +2
 Cook Islands 3 3 0 0 100.00 235 22 +213
 England 3 0 3 0 0.00 47 174 -127
 Fiji 86 26 57 3 31.97 1124 1649 -525
 France 4 2 2 0 50.00 57 111 -54
 Georgia 2 1 1 0 50.00 64 34 +30
 Ireland 2 0 2 0 0.00 28 72 -44
 Italy 4 1 3 0 25.00 63 137 -74
 Ivory Coast 1 1 0 0 100.00 29 11 +18
 Japan 15 8 7 0 53.33 409 359 +50
New Zealand Junior All Blacks 2 0 2 0 0.00 23 77 -54
 South Korea 6 6 0 0 100.00 464 66 +398
 Namibia 1 1 0 0 100.00 20 14 +6
 New Zealand 4 0 4 0 0.00 26 279 -253
 Māori[4] 12 4 8 0 33.33 165 319 -154
 Papua New Guinea 2 2 0 0 100.00 131 26 +105
 Portugal 1 1 0 0 100.00 24 19 +5
 Samoa 50 18 30 2 38.00 724 917 -193
 Scotland 3 1 2 0 33.33 46 99 -53
 Scotland A 2 0 2 0 0.00 15 82 -67
 South Africa 2 0 2 0 0.00 35 104 -69
 United States 6 5 1 0 83.33 148 86 +62
 Wales 7 0 7 0 0.00 78 212 -134
 Zimbabwe 1 1 0 0 100.00 42 13 +29
Total 232 85 142 5 37.71 4211 5299 -1088

World Cup Record[edit]

World Cup record World Cup Qualification record
Year Round P W D L F A P W D L F A
AustraliaNew Zealand 1987 Pool Stage 3 0 0 3 29 98 Automatically qualified
United KingdomRepublic of IrelandFrance 1991 Did not qualify 3 1 0 2 64 62
South Africa 1995 Pool Stage 3 1 0 2 44 90 2 1 0 1 34 26
Wales 1999 Pool Stage 3 1 0 2 47 171 7 2 0 5 317 241
Australia 2003 Pool Stage 4 0 0 4 46 178 8 4 0 4 398 178
France 2007 Pool Stage 4 2 0 2 89 96 7 3 0 4 329 136
New Zealand 2011 Pool Stage 4 2 0 2 80 98 Automatically qualified
England 2015 - - - - - - -
Japan 2019 To be determined To be determined
Total 7/8 21 6 0 15 335 731 27 11 0 16 1142 643

Current squad[edit]

Tonga's 29-man squad for the 2014 IRB Pacific Nations Cup, and the test match against the Pacific Barbarians.[5]

  • Head Coach: Tonga Mana Otai
  • Caps Updated: 16 June 2014


Note: Flags indicate national union for the club/province as defined by the International Rugby Board.

Player Position Date of Birth (Age) Caps Club/province
Paul Ngauamo Hooker (1990-02-19) 19 February 1990 (age 24) 2 New Zealand Sydenham R.F.C.
Suliasi Taufalele Hooker (1988-08-12) 12 August 1988 (age 25) 4 New Zealand Counties Manukau
Eddie Aholelei Prop (1981-12-03) 3 December 1981 (age 32) 6 Australia Melbourne Rebels
Ofa Fainga'anuku Prop (1982-12-05) 5 December 1982 (age 31) 3 England Worcester Warriors
Tevita Mailau Prop (1985-04-25) 25 April 1985 (age 29) 10 France Stade Montois
Sila Puafisi Prop (1988-04-15) 15 April 1988 (age 26) 10 England Gloucester
Kama Sakalia Prop (1985-08-23) 23 August 1985 (age 28) 6 Tonga Marist 'Apifo'ou
Josh Afu Lock (1987-02-21) 21 February 1987 (age 27) 17 Japan Kamaishi Seawaves
Lisiate Fa'aoso Lock (1983-03-18) 18 March 1983 (age 31) 13 France Bayonne
Daniel Faleafa Lock (1989-02-13) 13 February 1989 (age 25) 4 Australia Randwick
Semisi Taulava Lock (1983-02-26) 26 February 1983 (age 31) 0 England Worcester Warriors
Viliami Fihaki Flanker (1987-01-17) 17 January 1987 (age 27) 5 England Sale Sharks
Steve Mafi Flanker (1989-12-09) 9 December 1989 (age 24) 10 England Leicester Tigers
Pasuka Mapakaitolo Flanker (1980-04-27) 27 April 1980 (age 34) 5 Japan Kobelco Steelers
Opeti Fonua Number 8 (1986-05-26) 26 May 1986 (age 28) 5 France Bayonne
Nili Latu (c) Number 8 (1982-02-19) 19 February 1982 (age 32) 39 Japan Green Rockets
Viliami Ma'afu Number 8 (1982-03-09) 9 March 1982 (age 32) 18 France Oyonnax
Samisoni Fisilau Scrum-half (1987-11-29) 29 November 1987 (age 26) 15 New Zealand Bay of Plenty
Sonatane Takulua Scrum-half (1991-01-11) 11 January 1991 (age 23) 2 New Zealand Northland
Fangatapu Apikotoa Fly-half (1983-08-31) 31 August 1983 (age 30) 30 Tonga Marist 'Apifo'ou
Latiume Fosita Fly-half (1992-07-25) 25 July 1992 (age 21) 5 New Zealand Northland
Fraser Anderson Centre (1984-04-20) 20 April 1984 (age 30) 4 Japan Kobelco Steelers
Viliami Hakalo Centre (1987-04-12) 12 April 1987 (age 27) 6 Tonga Toa Saracens
Siale Piutau Centre (1985-10-13) 13 October 1985 (age 28) 16 Japan Yamaha Júbilo
Alaska Taufa Centre (1983-07-24) 24 July 1983 (age 30) 12 Japan Akita Northern Bullets
William Helu Wing (1986-04-19) 19 April 1986 (age 28) 19 England London Wasps
Fetu'u Vainikolo Wing (1985-01-30) 30 January 1985 (age 29) 14 England Exeter Chiefs
David Halaifonua Fullback (1987-07-05) 5 July 1987 (age 27) 9 Tonga Hofoa
Otulea Katoa Fullback (1991-04-26) 26 April 1991 (age 23) 8 Tonga Grammar Teachers

Individual all-time records[edit]

Most caps[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Start Sub Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop Won Lost Draw %
1. Elisi Vunipola Fly-half 1990-2005 41 40 1 50 8 2 2 0 15 26 0 36.58
2. Pierre Hola Fly-half 1998-2009 39 38 1 317 11 68 39 3 13 26 0 33.33
Benhur Kivalu Number 8 1998-2005 39 35 4 40 8 0 0 0 14 24 1 37.17
4. Manu Vunipola Scrum-half 1987-1999 36 31 5 9 2 0 0 0 12 23 1 34.72
5. Fe'ao Vunipola Hooker 1988-2001 34 32 2 15 3 0 0 0 13 20 1 39.70
6. Aleki Lutui Hooker 1999-2011 33 26 7 25 5 0 0 0 9 23 1 28.78
Ephraim Taukafa Hooker 2002-2011 33 17 16 30 6 0 0 0 14 19 0 42.42
Viliami Vaki Lock 2001-2008 33 26 7 35 7 0 0 0 9 24 0 27.27
9. Vili Ma'asi Hooker 1997-2009 32 15 17 15 3 0 0 0 7 25 0 21.87
10. 4 players on 29 caps

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Most tries[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Start Sub Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop
1. Josh Taumalolo Centre 1996-2007 26 23 3 118 14 6 12 0
2. Pierre Hola Fly-half 1998-2009 39 38 1 317 11 68 39 3
3. Fepikou Tatafu Centre 1996-2002 23 21 2 50 10 0 0 0
4. Vunga Lilo Fullback 2007-2012 27 26 1 60 9 0 5 0
5. Viliame Iongi Wing 2011- 18 12 6 40 8 0 0 0
Benhur Kivalu Number 8 1998-2005 39 35 4 40 8 0 0 0
Elisi Vunipola Fly-half 1990-2005 41 40 1 50 8 2 2 0
8. 5 players on 7 tries

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Leading point scorers[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Start Sub Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop
1. Pierre Hola Fly-half 1998-2009 39 38 1 317 11 68 39 3
2. Kurt Morath Fly-half 2009- 18 16 2 231 1 35 52 0
3. Sateki Tu'ipulotu Fullback 1993-2003 20 19 1 190 5 33 32 1
4. Fangatapu Apikotoa Fly-half 2004- 25 17 8 127 2 39 13 0
5. Josh Taumalolo Centre 1996-2007 26 23 3 118 14 6 12 0
6. Gustavo Tonga Fullback 1996-2001 13 12 1 114 1 32 15 0
7. Vunga Lilo Fullback 2007-2012 27 26 1 60 9 0 5 0
8. Fepikou Tatafu Centre 1996-2002 23 21 2 50 10 0 0 0
Elisi Vunipola Fly-half 1990-2005 41 40 1 50 8 2 2 0
10. Valita Ma'ake Fullback 1973-1980 17 17 0 47 0 10 9 0

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Most points in a match[edit]

# Player Pos Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop Opposition Venue Date
1. Pierre Hola Centre 44 2 17 0 0  South Korea Tonga Nuku'alofa 22/03/2003
2. Fangatapu Apikotoa Fly-half 30 2 10 0 0  South Korea New Zealand Henderson 10/02/2007
3. Sateki Tu'ipulotu Fullback 27 1 8 2 0  South Korea South Korea Seoul 04/05/1999
4. Pierre Hola Fullback 24 0 9 1 1  Papua New Guinea Tonga Nuku'alofa 07/12/2002
5. Gustavo Tonga Fullback 23 1 9 0 0  Cook Islands Tonga Nuku'alofa 05/07/1997
6. Benhur Kivalu Fly-half 20 4 0 0 0  South Korea Tonga Nuku'alofa 22/03/2003
Viliame Iongi Centre 20 4 0 0 0  United States England Esher 08/06/2011
Kurt Morath Fly-half 20 0 4 4 0  Fiji Fiji Lautoka 02/07/2011
9. 3 players on 19 points

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Most tries in a match[edit]

# Player Pos Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop Opposition Venue Date
1. Benhur Kivalu Number 8 20 4 0 0 0  South Korea Tonga Nuku'alofa 22/03/2003
Viliame Iongi Wing 20 4 0 0 0  United States England Esher 08/06/2011
3. Josh Taumalolo Fly-half 15 3 0 0 0  Cook Islands Tonga Nuku'alofa 05/07/1997
Josh Taumalolo Fullback 17 3 1 0 0  Georgia Georgia (country) Tbilisi 28/03/1999
Jonathan Koloi Flanker 15 3 0 0 0  South Korea South Korea Seoul 04/05/1999
Viliami Hakalo Wing 15 3 0 0 0  Cook Islands Cook Islands Raratonga 24/06/2006
7. 46 players on 2 tries

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Most matches as captain[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Won Lost Draw % Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop
1. Nili Latu Flanker 2006- 25 11 14 0 44.00 18 3 0 1 0
2. Inoke Afeaki Lock 2001-2003 12 4 8 0 33.33 15 3 0 0 0
3. Fakahau Valu Flanker 1977-1987 11 0 11 0 0.00 12 3 0 0 0
4. Aleki Lutui Hooker 2004-2011 9 1 8 0 11.11 5 1 0 0 0
Elisi Vunipola Fly-half 1999-2001 9 4 5 0 44.44 15 3 0 0 0
6. Sione Mafi Pahulu Number 8 1973-1975 7 1 6 0 14.28 15 3 0 1 0
7. Siaosi Atiola Number 8 1987-1990 6 1 4 1 25.00 4 1 0 0 0
8. Mana Otai Number 8 1995 5 3 2 0 60.00 5 1 0 0 0
Fe'ao Vunipola Hooker 1994-1998 5 2 3 0 40.00 0 0 0 0 0
10. 5 players on 4 matches

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Youngest players[edit]

# Player Pos Age Opposition Venue Date
1. Elisi Vunipola Fly-half 17 years and 292 days  Fiji Tonga Nuku'alofa 24/03/1990
2. Sione Kalamafoni (Flanker) 18 years and 268 days  South Korea New Zealand Henderson 10/02/2007
3. Soane Havea Scrum-half 18 years and 292 days  New Zealand New Zealand North Shore City 16/06/2000
4. Semi Taupeaafe Wing 18 years and 317 days  Fiji Fiji Suva 11/06/1991
5. Sinali-Tui Latu Number 8 18 years and 320 days  Fiji Fiji Suva 07/07/1984
6. Unuoi Va'enuku Centre 19 years and 51 days  France South Africa Pretoria 26/05/1995
7. Viliami Hakalo (Wing) 19 years and 53 days  Japan Japan Fukuoka 04/06/2006
8. Pita Alatini Centre 19 years and 119 days  Samoa Tonga Nuku'alofa 08/07/1995
9. Tevita 'Ahoafi (Scrum-half) 19 years and 171 days  Australia A Australia Sydney 25/05/2007
10. Isi Tapueluelu Centre 19 years and 176 days  Fiji Tonga Nuku'alofa 24/03/1990

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Oldest players[edit]

# Player Pos Age Opposition Venue Date
1. Rudi Kapeli Hooker 35 years and 311 days  Australia Australia Brisbane 04/07/1993
2. Kuli Faletau Lock 35 years and 185 days  Canada Tonga Nuku'alofa 03/07/1999
3. Ephraim Taukafa Hooker 35 years and 80 days  Canada New Zealand Whangarei 14/09/2011
4. Hemani Lavaka Prop 34 years and 292 days  Canada Australia Wollongong 29/10/2003
5. Tonga Lea'aetoa Prop 34 years and 168 days  Fiji Fiji Lautoka 19/08/2011
6. Kisi Pulu Prop 34 years and 144 days  Fiji Fiji Lautoka 23/06/2012
7. Taufa'ao Filise Prop 34 years and 118 days  Japan New Zealand Whangarei 21/09/2011
8. Johnny Ngauamo Centre 34 years and 101 days  Canada Australia Wollongong 29/10/2003
9. Finau Maka Flanker 34 years and 83 days  France New Zealand Wellington 01/10/2011
10. Inoke Afeaki (Lock) 34 years and 78 days  England France Parc des Princes 28/09/2007

Last updated: Fiji vs Tonga, 23 June 2013. Statistics include officially capped matches only.

Notable Former Players[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Haka and Sipi Tau set Lang Park alight ABC
  2. ^ a b "World Rankings". International Rugby Board. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Although the New Zealand Maori are not New Zealand's national representative team (see All Blacks) many Test nations award their players Test caps when playing them.
  5. ^ Kama Sakalia makes ‘Ikale Tahi squad

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]