Tonga name three new caps to face England at Twickenham

By RNZ.co.nz. Republished with permission.

Former Wallabies international Lopeti Timani is among three new caps in the Tonga rugby team named to play England at Twickenham this weekend.

Lopeti Timani will make his 'Ikale Tahi debut against England.
Lopeti Timani will make his ‘Ikale Tahi debut against England. Photo: Supplied/Tonga Rugby Union

The Toulon forward, who last played for Australia in 2017, will make his debut for the ‘Ikale Tahi on the blindside flank.

Former New Zealand and Tonga rugby league international Solomone Kata has been named to start on the left wing, while Perpignan midfielder Afusipa Taumoepeau gets the nod at second five eighth.

Timani and Taumoepeau – a former Australian sevens international – both qualified to represent the ‘Ikale Tahi after playing for the kingdom at the Olympic sevens repechage tournament in June.

Head Coach Toutai Kefu said he opted for an experienced team to complement the three newcomers.

“This is another important step on our voyage to the Rugby World Cup 2023,” he said.

“After a solid showing against England at the RWC in 2019, the whole squad is excited to play England in Twickenham.”

Tonga have made eight changes in all to their starting fifteen from the side thrashed 60-14 by Scotland last weekend.

Veteran props Sigfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna come into the front row, with Mateaki Kafatolu and Sione Vailanu joining Timani in an all-new backrow.

Meanwhile, Telusa Veainu starts at fullback in his first test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

There’s also a couple of positional changes, with Tanginoa Halaifonua moving from blindside flanker to lock and Walter Fifita swapping from the right wing to the left, while Ma’afu Fia, Leon Fukofuka and Viliami Fine come onto the bench.

England captain Owen Farrell will start at first five against the ‘Ikale Tahi in his 100th test appearance, including 94 for his country and six tests for the British and Irish Lions.

He kicked 15 points in England’s 35-3 win over Tonga at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Sigfried Fisi’ihoi, Ben Tameifuna, Leva Fifita, Sonatane Takulua and Kurt Morath also started that day in Sapporo, while Siua Maile, Ma’afu Fia, Leon Fukofuka and James Faiva were among the reserves.

Tonga squad:

1. Sigfried Fisi’ihoi, 2. Paula Ngauamo, 3. Ben Tameifuna, 4. Halaleva Fifita, 5. Tanginoa Halaifonua, 6. Lopeti Timani*, 7. Mateaki Kafatolu, 8. Sione Vailanu, 9. Sonatane Takulua (c),

10. Kurt Morath, 11. Solomone Kata*, 12. Afusipa Taumoepeau*, 13. Mailetoa Hingano,

14. Walter Fifita, 15. Telusa Veainu. Reserves: 16. Siua Maile, 17. Loni Uhila, 18. Ma’afu Fia,

19. Setofano Funaki, 20. Onehunga Havili, 21. Leon Fukofuka, 22. James Faiva, 23. Viliami Fine.

*denotes new cap

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