Tonga coach Toutai Kefu says family recovering well from attack

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

Tonga rugby coach Toutai Kefu says his family is making good progress in their recovery from a home invasion attack two months ago.

Toutai Kefu. Tonga rugby coach.

Tonga rugby coach Toutai Kefu. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 47 year-old, who played 60 tests for the Wallabies, was rushed to hospital in August with his wife Rachel and two of his children.

He underwent emergency surgery after being stabbed in the attack, while his wife had surgery on a deep cut to her arm.

Kefu said their physical wounds have pretty much healed but his wife’s movement was still limited.

“She only just started her therapy on her hand so she can’t move her hand at all yet, so we’re hoping with some intense therapy over the next 6-12 months she can get close to full movement,” he said.

“There’s a still a bit of uncertainty there but every day she’s getting a little bit better, albeit with a lot of pain. She’s heading in the right direction.”

The ‘Ikale Tahi head coach has selected a 40-man squad to face Scotland, England, the French Barbarians and Romania on their upcoming Northern Hemisphere tour, although not every player will be available for all the games.

But the father of five will remain in Brisbane as he and his family continue their recovery.

“I would rather be there but as you know it’s probably best for me to stay home at this point,” he said.

“It will be a weird feeling (watching the team on TV) but I’m actually really looking forward to this campaign. We don’t get too many chances to play two tier one games so I was bitterly disappointed I couldn’t make the trip for obvious reasons I couldn’t be there.”

Kefu’s assistant coach Grant Doorey, and former Flying Fijians head coach John McKee, will be handed the reins of the Tongan team on tour, while Cardiff attack coach Richie Reece and Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy will also join the coaching staff for their end of year campaign.

“We’ve had meetings consistently now over the last month – all quite capable guys and more importantly really nice guys. They look like they’re going to really fit into our environment,” Kefu said.

“With the other staff we’ve looked to recruit from Europe as well – our medical, our analysts and our managerial side as well, so it will be a wholly new looking staff for this campaign.”

Assistant coach Grant Doorey.

Grant Doorey will lead the team alongside former Fiji coach John McKee. Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

Kefu will be in regular contact with the coaching staff but said he would leave the final decisions up to them.

“So I’ll have my opinions on selections but I’ll leave the selections to Grant, Grunter, but we will have discussions around that,” he said.

“All training sessions will be filmed. I’ll probably get one of the coaches to wear a go pro and I’ll just have conversations with Grunter and the coaching group most mornings and most afternoons or evenings. I won’t interfere but I will stay connected with the group closely.”

Toutai Kefu said selecting a squad for their upcoming matches was no easy task, with most of their New Zealand based players unavailable because of a lack of MIQ places.

“We’ve got a lot of players over there in Europe so getting players wasn’t an issue – just getting the right players and putting together a really competitive team was probably the biggest issue,” he said.

“We could hardly get any players out of New Zealand, so that was tough and also one of our games is outside the window and that’s proven to be a little bit difficult but we’ve done it and a lot of thanks goes to the coaching staff and management and so on, so we got there in the end.”

Tonga will face the Cook Islands after losing back to back tests against Samoa.

Most of the Tongan squad from their July tests were unavailable for the end of year tour. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Kefu said former Wallabies forward Lopeti Timani will bring plenty of physicality, experience and leadership to the ‘Ikale Tahi squad after switching his international allegience via the Tonga sevens programme.

“A very very powerful player. He can play lock or in the backrow and what we’re looking for (from) him is just a bit of leadership but also just to lead the way in terms of on field physical presence in terms of running with the ball but also in defence.”

Former All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa is also newly eligible for Tonga but was ruled out of their available for the upcoming tests after suffering a shoulder injury.

“It’s unfortunate for him,” Kefu said. “It was a long and drawn-out complicated process to get him qualified, Malakai, but we got the job done. We were hoping he could play this campaign but at least we got him for next year and the World Cup moving forward.”

Malakai Fekitoa,Lopeti Timani and Afusipa Taumoepeau are eligible for the 'Ikale Tahi after playing at the Final Olympic 7s Qualifier.

Malakai Fekitoa,Lopeti Timani and Afusipa Taumoepeau are eligible for the ‘Ikale Tahi after playing at the Final Olympic 7s Qualifier. Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

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