Tonga face off against the United States this Saturday, in their first match in the Rugby 7s in five years.
The US team are the world leaders, but Tonga are firm fan favourites.
HSBC New Zealand Sevens General Manager Steve Dunbar said he would not be surprised if Tonga caused a few upsets during the tournament at the FMG stadium in Hamilton.
“We all know the quality of rugby players Tonga consistently produces and the flair they bring to the field, but we also know they have a massive support base in New Zealand,” Dunbar said.
“We saw the passion of Tongan fans when their national rugby league team played in Hamilton during the Rugby League World Cup in 2017 and I’m sure they’ll get in behind their Sevens team too.”
Tonga will also play England and Samoa.
Tonga was selected to join 15 other teams in the men’s draw at Waikato Stadium after finishing fifth at the Oceania Sevens in Suva.
Head coach Tevita Tu’ifua told Radio New Zealand the Tongan side had been able to put together two teams for this weekend.
The team held an open trial in Auckland before Christmas and attracted what he called “a good group of kids” aged 18-25.
Tu’ifua, who is a former ‘Ikale Tahi international, said one team would compete in the official competition.
The other, a development team would play in the Tailevu Sevens and the Marist Sevens outside the stadium.
He said the Tongan players were concentrating on honing their performance on the field.
Tu’ifua said he hoped the Rugby 7s team would receive the same level of support as the Mate Ma’a.
“Having the crowd right next to you on the field will be a big boost if we have the numbers there,” he said.
The main points
- Tonga face off against the United States on Saturday, in their first match in the Rugby 7s in five years.
- The US team are the world leaders, but Tonga are firm fan favourites.
- HSBC New Zealand Sevens General Manager Steve Dunbar said he would not be surprised if Tonga caused a few upsets during the tournament.
For more information
Tonga 7s on the rise
Tonga to play at the 2019 HSBC NZ Sevens