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Tough Battle Looms

Vunipola: World Rugby gives us go ahead to host Flying Fijians  and Samoa in July The Vodafone Flying Fijians will still travel to Nuku’lofa to play Tonga on July 8
28 Mar 2017 11:00
Tough Battle Looms
Vodafone Flying Fijians to face an uphill battle against Tonga at the Teufaiva National Stadium in Nukua’lofa, Tonga on July 8. Photo: FRU Media

Vunipola: World Rugby gives us go ahead to host Flying Fijians  and Samoa in July

The Vodafone Flying Fijians will still travel to Nuku’lofa to play Tonga on July 8 in the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifier.

This was after the Tonga Rugby Union indicated yesterday that the Teufaiva National Stadium will be ready to host international rugby matches in July.

Last week representatives from World Rugby and Turf Management New Zealand visited Nuku’alofa to assess the playing field.

Tonga Rugby Union chief executive officer Fe’ao Vunipola told Radio New Zealand that the governing body has given them the go ahead to begin preparations for hosting Samoa and Fiji in July, pending a final sign-off.

“They were all surprised when we all turned up to Teufaiva and there used to be a poverty part of the field, particular the infield, but the whole field now is green – it’s all green,” he said.

“The grass has grown, it’s so healthy, because we had been having rain for the last few weeks and even the turf management consultant from New Zealand was surprised by how quick the grass had grown, so there’s no major work to be done.

“They will be mowing it, fertilising it and fixing little patches wherever they feel they need to but overall there’s just no need for a huge improvement to be done, like they anticipated before.”

The ‘Ikale Tahi have not played on home soil since 2009 and a scheduled home test against Wales in June has been moved to Auckland, New Zealand because the field was deemed unfit for play.

Teufaiva National Stadium is being refurbished for Tonga’s hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games but had faced numerous delays, while the Games Organising Committee and the Government have clashed on multiple occasions.

Despite the frustration of the ‘Ikale Tahi being deprived a home venue for two full Rugby World Cup cycles, Vunipola was keen to look forward and said it was an “awesome feeling” for the Tongan rugby community.

“I don’t want to point fingers at people but I think it’s just a matter of prioritisation and I think for us our priority was always to bring a game here and to qualify for 2019 World Cup,” he said.

“Which by playing the two important matches here gives us more chance of winning it this year because that’s the only way we can qualify for 2019 is to win the Pacific Nations Cup this year.”

Meanwhile, Flying Fijians head coach John McKee is expected into the country next week as he works on putting together a team for the RWC qualifiers.

McKee is currently in Europe to monitor the overseas-based players and check on their availability for the June Test matches followed by the RWC qualifiers in July.

Feedback:  leonec@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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