Chinese supporters wear red while attending Tongan event in Māngere to show their support for the Tonga Invitational XIII. Photo/Sisifa Fuki Ngaluafe

The Tonga International XIII go into tomorrow night’s match with a victory against the British Lions under their belt, but as they know from their last encounter, Australia will provide tough opposition.

When they last met, Mate Ma’a Tonga went down 34-16.

However, the level of fan support has blossomed since the victory in Hamilton and the team has been thanked by His Majesty King Tupou VI and Prime Minister Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa for their efforts.

As this story was being written, Tongan fans were gathering, waving flags and circling round in their vehicles with flags to show their supports in Otahuhu Great South Road shopping centre.

Coach Kristian Woolf and co-captain Jason Taumalolo have both spoken to the media about how positive they feel ahead of tomorrow night’s game.

And Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has cautioned his players not to underestimate the Tongan International XIII.

Taumalolo said he was buouyed by the turnout at supporters events at the Mangere East Rugby League Club this week.

He told RNZ it was a sign of what was to come when they play Australia at Eden Park in the Oceana Cup Test match on Saturday night.

“If today is anything to go by, I think this weekend is going to be even more crazier than what it is today so that can only mean a good thing for us. You know, they really turned out in numbers today,” he said.

Taumalolo said he would not be satisfied until Tonga had defeated all of international rugby’s big three.

On Wednesday night the Tongan team watched Australia defeat New Zealand 26-4.

“They played a typical Australian style of footy, grinding out teams and putting them to the sword,” Taumalolo said.

“There’s a lot of factors at play in this weekend’s game. They have strike power all over the field, but I’m confident we do too. I’ll back my players and I’m sure they’ll go out and rise to the occasion on Saturday night.”

The Tongan squad has been extended, with the inclusion of Broncos trio Tevita Pangai Jr, Joe Ofahengaue and Kotoni Staggs.

Australia

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said they could not afford to be over-confident.

“I think you always go into games, particularly at this level, with a fear of failure,” Meninga told the official NRL website.

“That has been a common theme with the Kangaroos for a long time.

“Our mental preparation and physicality has to be good to play against the Tongans. They were extraordinarily good last week and played with so much passion. We have to prepare really well to match the Tongans tomorrow night.”

Earlier, Kangaroos player David Klemmer said Tonga had “an explosive forward pack.”

“If we can keep the ball in play and tire them out somehow and hold the football, we’ll have some fun around the ruck there.”

Divisions

As Kaniva news reported last weekend, Taumalolo was equally confident ahead of the British Lions game, despite the upheavals surrounding the team.

Some people calling for the Invitational XIII to be  boycotted because they weren’t the Mate Ma’a Tonga or even a ‘real’ Tongan team.

However, the Invitational XIII’s performance in a hard, tight fought game should put those claims to rest once and for all.

“I’m confident that they’ll turn out in numbers this weekend,” Taumalolo said.

“I’m sure after last week’s result a lot more fans will be turning out to this weekend’s game.”

The main points

  • The Tonga International XIII go into tomorrow night’s match with a victory against the British Lions under their belt, but as they know from their last encounter, Australia will provide tough opposition.
  • Co-captain Jason Taumalolo is optimistic about the outcome of tomorrow night’s game.

For more information

PM congratulates Tongan Invitational XIII ahead of match with Australia on Saturday

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