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Crusaders flanker added to Tonga squad for Pacific Nations Cup and World Cup qualifier

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Crusaders flanker Sione Havili Talitui has been added to the Tonga squad ahead of their Pacific Nations Cup campaign and World Cup qualifier next month.

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Havili Talitui has been added to the ‘Ikale Tahi squad by head coach Toutai Kefu a week after the announcement of the team, which was headlined by ex-test stars Israel Folau, Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa and Augustine Pulu.

The uncapped 23-year-old, a former New Zealand Schools representative who won the Golden Boot as the country’s best secondary schools player in 2016, had previously outlined his intention to play for the All Blacks.

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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 16
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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 16

“I miss Tonga, my family, my favourite foods taro and Lu Sipi but I’m making this sacrifice so I can one day be an All Black,” Havili Talitui told Stuff six years ago.

However, he has since opted to throw his lot in with the country of his birth, giving Tonga an extra option in a loose forward contingent that also features Solomone Funaki, Sione Tu’ipulotu, Lotu Inisi, Viliami Taulani and Tanginoa Halaifonua.

Havili Talitui’s call-up to the ‘Ikale Tahi squad comes after an injury-plagued Super Rugby Pacific campaign in which he has made only three appearances for the Crusaders.

Nevertheless, the youngster has a solid base of Super Rugby experience behind him, having won two championships with the Crusaders since joining them in 2020.

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He also has won two NPC titles with Tasman since 2018, and is likely to compete with Funaki for the Tongan No 7 jersey.

Havili Talitui could make his test debut as early as July 2, when Tonga open their Pacific Nations Cup campaign against Fiji in Suva before taking on Samoa and Australia A in Lautoka in the following weeks.

Tonga will then face the winner of the Asian Rugby Championship in Australia on July 23 in a World Cup playoff match for a place in Pool B alongside South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Romania at next year’s tournament in France.

Elsewhere, Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua has announced his squad for the Pacific Nations Cup, naming 12 new caps in his 30-man roster.

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The most notable newbies include Lyon loose forward Jordan Taufua and Toulon midfielder Duncan Paia’aua, both of whom have been part of All Blacks and Wallabies squads in recent years but never took to the field for those teams.

Mapusua has also found room for 14 players from the Moana Pasifika squad, four of whom are in line for their test debuts, while Leinster prop Michael Alaalatoa has been named as captain.

Manu Samoa squad for Pacific Nations Cup

Hookers: Seilala Lam (Perpignan), Ray Niuia (Moana Pasifika), Andrew Tuala (LA Giltinis)*

Props: Michael Alaalatoa (Leinster, captain), Sef Fa’agase (Reds)*, Marco Fepulea’i (LA Giltinis)*, Aki Seiuli (Dragons)*, Kalolo Tuiloma (Rugby New York)

Locks: Michael Curry (Moana Pasifika)*, Theo McFarland (Saracens), Sam Slade (Moana Pasifika), Chris Vui (Bristol Bears)

Loose Forwards: Jack Lam (Moana Pasifika), Fritz Lee (Clermont)*, Alamanda Motuga (Moana Pasifika), Henry Time-Stowers (Moana Pasifika), Jordan Taufua (Lyon)*

Halfbacks: Ereatara Enari (Moana Pasifika)*, Auvasa Faleali’i (Papatoetoe), Jonathan Taumateine (Moana Pasifika)

First-Fives: AJ Alatimu (Seattle Seawolves), Rodney Iona (Brumbies), D’Angelo Leiula (Moana Pasifika)

Midfielders: Nigel Ah Wong (Blues)*, Duncan Paia’aua (Toulon)*, Henry Taefu (Moana Pasifika), Danny Toala (Moana Pasifika)*

Outside Backs: Ed Fidow (Rugby New York), Neria Foma’i (Moana Pasifika), Lolagi Visinia (Moana Pasifika)*

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