Tonga have sent 28 players as part of their national ‘A’ squad to take part in the Americas Pacific Challenge in Montevideo. Coaching the team is former Ikale Tahi lock Isi Fatani, a 1999 World Cup veteran. Hooker Sione Lolohea will continue his role as captain. This will be Tonga’s first involvement in the competition, taking the place of the Fiji Warriors, though they are regular participants in the World Rugby Pacific Challenge that takes places earlier in the year between the Oceanic nations.
The team is largely composed of domestic players with a handful of others based in Australia and New Zealand. Like Samoa there is only one player with any test experience in the squad in winger Fetuli Paea, capped once as a replacement against Spain in 2016.
Lolohea and second row Vainanuma Manu were part of the extended training squad for Tonga’s November test series but did not see game time. Manu and scrumhalf Samiu Muna have tasted professional rugby in Romania before returning home to Tonga in the past year.
West Harbour lock Faiva Sailosi adds bulk and experience to the pack with former Dijon loose forward Koli Tonga and South Canterbury No 8 Atunaisa Faka’osi other notables in the forwards. The backs will be led by Penrith flyhalf James Faiva and hard-running rugby league convert Paki Afu in the midfield. Manly utility back Johnny Loseli will be a key figure along with Paea out wide.
Tonga will face Uruguay, Canada, and Samoa beginning on October 7. All matches will be played at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo, with streaming details from World Rugby to be confirmed in the coming days. A detailed roster can be seen here.
Leiataua Kilifi, Makasine Lutua, Puniani Malafu, Misinale Tuakalo, Loiola Vea, Solomone Kioa, Sione Lolohea (capt.), Tevita Heehau, Vainanuma Manu, Faiva Sailosi, Atunaisa Faka’osi, Taniela Na’a, Aisea Puaka, Koli Tonga, Katilimoni Tu’ipulotu, Sione Tupou
Sione Ika, Samiu Muna, Sosaia Tokai, James Faiva, Fe’ofa’aki Kaumavae, Paki Afu, Soape Polutele, Heamatangi Tu’ivai, Paula Folau, Posiana Kamoto, Fetuli Paea, Johnny Loseli
Oct 7 – 16:30 local / 15:30 ET / 12:30 PT – vs Uruguay ‘A’
Oct 11 – 11:30 local / 10:30 ET / 07:30 PT – vs Canada ‘A’
Oct 15 – 11:30 local / 10:30 ET / 07:30 PT – vs Samoa ‘A’