Sport: Tonga rugby team relish extended preparation in NZ

The ‘Ikale Tahi rugby team will assemble in Auckland this weekend and are relishing the chance to spend an extended of time period together ahead of the June test window.

Tonga play tests against Georgia, Samoa and Fiji next month as they continue preparations towards the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The ‘Ikale Tahi play three tests during the June window. Photo: AFP

Head coach Toutai Kefu named six new caps in his 29-man squad, which will hold a week-long training camp in South Auckland from Sunday.

“This has been in the pipeline for a while and we‘ve been able to secure some extra funding to make this happen so we‘re very lucky. If we didn‘t have that funding it would have been just the usual one week preparation for that Georgian test so to have that extra week is vital.”

“We‘re looking forward to that and hopefully our goal is to have three wins from three games. They‘re very good opposition but having that extra week is bloody crucial for us,” he said.

The ‘Ikale Tahi hosted their first test matches in Nuku‘alofa for eight years during last year‘s Pacific Nations Cup but will play all three June internationals in Fiji.

A sold out crowd at Teufaiva Stadium watches the ‘Ikale Tahi take on the Flying Fijians. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Teufaiva Stadium was badly damaged in Cyclone Gita three months ago, less than a year after the ground was reopened following a $US1.5 million dollar upgrade.

Toutai Kefu said the squad won‘t get the chance to visit Tonga during the next month and he was never told why no games were scheduled for Teufaiva.

“Honestly I‘m not too sure – our grounds would be pretty much ready. I think there‘s some administration issues in terms of running the game in Tonga. There might be (concerns of the facilities available for) medical but I was never told why but we‘ve got two games in Suva and one game in Lautoka so that‘s what we‘re looking forward to,” he said.

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