Tonga Coach Sets Quarterfinal Target

Tonga coach Mana Otai has set his sights on leading the ‘Ikale Tahi to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time. “Something that Tonga has never
15 Sep 2015 10:36
Tonga Coach Sets Quarterfinal Target
Warm welcome ... The Tongan team give a performance in Cheltenham - their training base during RWC 2015.

Tonga coach Mana Otai has set his sights on leading the ‘Ikale Tahi to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time.

“Something that Tonga has never achieved is to get to the quarter-finals, and for us to achieve that we’ve got to win three out of four games. We’ve got Georgia, Namibia, Argentina and the All Blacks, so you do the math,” Otai said as the Tongan team was officially welcomed to RWC 2015 at Cheltenham Town Hall on Sunday.

The coach will focus on building solid foundations for his team as they seek to qualify from a pool in which New Zealand and Argentina are favourites.



“A typical Tongan house has got four main corner posts – four pillars that have got to withstand hurricanes and things like that,” said Otai.

“Our four pillars are technical, tactical, physical and mental, and we’ve got to make sure that all the pillars are of equal strength, and that they are built on something firm, which is our culture, faith and belief.”

In the tactical and mental areas, Otai believes his team can refine their set-piece play, as well as work to channel their emotions in the right areas.

“The perception is that we don’t like set-pieces. Athleticism and flair we have naturally, but set-pieces have become crucial nowadays. You talk about scoring tries but many games, tight games, are won on penalties. In the northern hemisphere they use the set-piece to gain a penalty, which is different to the southern hemisphere where we use it to launch an attack. So it’s about bringing in the best of both worlds and trying to work on areas to make us a more complete team.

“The other thing is playing with discipline. We are high in emotion a lot of times, so we need to be in control and generate our emotions and passion in the right way, which is to do things within the laws of the game. It’s a huge part of our game that we need to work on.”



Despite Tonga’s proximity to Argentina in the world rankings, where the South Americans are positioned three places higher in eighth, Otai admits Argentina are favourites to qualify from Pool C behind the All Blacks. However, he believes shocks are always possible at a world cup.

“In the current structure of rugby, Argentina are a tier one nation and we are a tier two nation, so a victory has to be an upset. But we’ve got to make sure we look after the first two matches. Our toughest opponent is always going to be our next opponent. The first is Georgia, then Namibia, and in a competition like this you can’t take anyone for granted.

“At the last world cup we upset a tier one nation (France), so Namibia are in the same boat against us – they have nothing to lose. We’ve got to have the whole picture in mind, but I think it’s important that we take it one game at a time.”

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