Tonga has today announced their squad for July’s Pacific Nations Cup and World Cup qualifying matches.
This see’s a host of new faces, and in particular, a series of ex-internationals who have recently made themselves available for the pacific island side.
The recent rule changes state that players who have not played for their countries in three years can now make the decision to play for another country they were eligible for from birth.
The three big names that are likely to catch the attention of rugby fans around the world are; Israel Folau, Charles Piutau, and Malakai Fekitoa.
Folau in particular will be of huge interest to those around the world. Following his ejection from the Australian squad after a contentious Instagram post caused outrage for its defamation against Homosexuals, he is set to play his first international game since 2019.
Charles Piutau the Bristol full-back has not played international rugby for New Zealand since 2015. Aged 30 years old now, it seemed unlikely that he was to be able to add to his 17 existing caps. Taking in his Tongan parent’s heritage, Piutau will have his eyes firmly set on a 2023 World Cup appearance.
Fekitoa is another ex-All Black player who has made the transition to play for the country of his birth, Tonga.
Having played at the very highest levels of club and international competition, Fekitoa will be looking to reignite his international career by linking up with Folau and Piutau to create a fierce backline.
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Another exciting call-up will be that of Augustine Pulu. The two-time All Black has not played international rugby since 2014, but has been a prolific half-back in super rugby competitions over the years which will make him a fantastic addition to the side.
In regards to debutants, all but one of the other uncapped players named in the Tongan squad play for super rugby’s Moana Pasifika. In terms of rebuilding the national side, it certainly seems to be on the right track.
Tonga Pacific Nations Cup and World Cup qualifier squad
Loosehead Props: Siegfried Fisiihoi, Tau Kolomatangi, David Lolohea
Hookers: Sam Moli, Siua Maile, Jay Fonokalafi
Tighthead Props: Siate Tokolahi, Ben Tameifuna, Joe ‘Apikotoa
Locks: Sam Lousi, Leva Fifita, Veikoso Poloniati
Loose Forwards: Tanginoa Halaifonua, Viliami Taulani, Lotu Inisi, Solomone Funaki, Sione Tu’ipulotu
Halfbacks: Sonatane Takulua, Augustine Pulu, Manu Paea
First-Fives: William Havili, James Faiva
Midfielders: Malakai Fekitoa, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Fetuli Paea, Fine Inisi
Outside Backs: Solomone Kata, Charles Piutau, Tima Fainga’anuku, Israel Folau, Anzelo Tuitavuki