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Tongans Dare ‘Olympic Champions’

‘Fiji is an idol to us, coming along to play the Olympic champions is something big for us’   The Tongan rugby sevens team are looking forward to play against
09 Nov 2016 12:40
Tongans Dare ‘Olympic Champions’
Tongan men’s rugby sevens team at Bidesi Park in Suva yesterday. Photo: Justine Mannan

‘Fiji is an idol to us, coming along to play the Olympic champions is something big for us’

 

The Tongan rugby sevens team are looking forward to play against their idol and Olympic gold medal champions Fiji in the Oceania Championship that gets underway on Friday at ANZ Stadium, Suva.

Team manager Filo Akauola said yesterday they are excited about playing the world champions as sevens is not really a big sport back in their country.

“Fiji is an idol to us, coming along to play the Olympic champions is something big for us,” Akauola said.

“They are the world champions and we are playing them in our last game and we will see how we contest with the Fijian team, whether we are going to make them fly or are we going to make them land.

“This is always an opportunity for us Tongan people because we always look up to Fiji and Samoa as they are the Pacific giants.

“There is always a possibility and there is always a chance for Tonga so it’s been months now since we have been preparing with the young players.

 

New blood

“Most of my players are under-22, most just left school so we are trying to get them in touch with this kind of rugby.

“Normally, Tonga is known only for 15s style of rugby, there is sevens in Tonga but nowhere as near to Fiji and Samoa.”

Tonga finished as runners-up in the Oceania 7s last year losing to Australia 50-0 in the finals but Akauola said they feel they have a chance in their pool.

“We feel that we have a chance in our pool and we don’t want to lose that chance, we only want to finish at the top half of our table so that we can make it into the semi-finals,” he said.

“Our non-stop training and the Government of Tonga have been helping us make this happen. We feel that we are going to build sevens rugby in Tonga and make it popular again by building teams there.

“There are lots of tournaments coming up next year so we will stick with this team and develop them. If we qualify we will be taking the same team to New Zealand, Australia and also Hong Kong.

“Only a few of the players have played before but the rest are quite new. Our one and only aim coming into this competition is to qualify.

“Since we have been training, there has only been one word we will be working towards and that is ‘qualify’.

“Every move we do, every kick or tackle, we have to qualify and should we win against a team that is an added bonus and I think we can make it.”

The Tongans are in Pool A with hosts Fiji, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa and Nauru.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback:  justine.mannan@fijisun.com.fj

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