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Siale Piutau announces retirement - but could return for certain 'special occasions'

By Tom Vinicombe
Tonga captain Siale Piutau makes a break against France at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / Getty Images)

As it currently stands, Tongan captain Siale Piatua will play his 43rd and final Test match on Sunday when Tonga go to war with the USA, the midfielder has revealed.


Piutau’s announcement won’t come as a huge surprise; the 33-year-old (turning 34 on game day) has been a huge part of the ‘Ikale Tahi since the 2011 World Cup and has four young children at home.

“I made the decision [to retire] behind closed doors after talking with my family,” Piutau said, following the unveiling of the Tongan side for their final match of the 2019 World Cup.

“I’ve been away three months and my kids are at an age when I think it’s important to have a father figure at home. I’ve been thinking about hanging up my boots and now I’m making it public.”

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It won’t be the last that fans see of the New Zealand-born midfielder, however.

“It’s just a retirement from international rugby,” Piutau confirmed. “I have another season with Bristol and fingers crossed there will be a couple more after that.”

Piutau also didn’t shut down the suggestion that he could return for Tonga if his brother, former All Black Charles, finds himself donning the red jersey in the future.

“There have been boys who have come out of retirement for special occasions,” Piutau noted.


27-year-old Charles will be eligible for selection in the Tongan national side if he takes part in an Olympics-qualifying rugby sevens event in the future. He has already served a mandatory three-year stand-down period from international rugby after last playing for the All Blacks in 2015.

Samoan fullback Tim Nanai-Williams used the same method to escape his ties to New Zealand.

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu, who could also be in his last season with the team, wants to send his captain out on a high.

“He has been a great servant to the game,” Kefu said. “When I came in as head coach he was the one I wanted to be captain.”


“We would love to put him out with a win. He’s been our best player over the four weeks and leads from the front.”

Piutau, however, is thinking only of the team.

“I’m not putting the focus on myself, but I want to leave the team on a high – that’s my priority. There is no place I would rather be than with these boys.

“It’s been a huge honour and privilege and I’m grateful for the opportunities that the red jersey has given me.”

Tonga and USA kick off their match in Osaka on Sunday at 2:45PM JST.

Tonga: Telusa Veainu, ‘Atieli Pakalani, Malietoa Hingano, Siale Piutau (c), Viliami Lolohea, Jaimes Faiva, Sonatane Takulua, Ma’ama Vaipulu, Zane Kapeli, Sione Kalamafoni, Halaleva Fifita, Sam Louisi, Siua Halanukouka, Paula Ngauamo, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi. Reserves: Siua Maile, Vunipola Fifita, Ma’afu Fia, Dan Faleafa, Nasi Manu, Leon Fukofuka, Latiume Fosita, David Halaifonua.

USA: Will Hooley, Blaine Scully (c), Bryce Campbell, Paul Lasike, Marcel Brache, AJ MacGinty, Ruben de Haas, Cam Dolan, Malon Al-Jiboori, Tony Lamborn, Nick Civetta, Greg Peterson, Titi Lamositele, Joe Taufete’e, Eric Fry. Reserves: James Hilterbrand, Olive Kilfi, Paul Mullen, Ben Landry, Hanco Germishuys, Ben Pinkelman, Nate Augspurger, Mike Te’o.

RugbyPass went behind the scenes with the ‘Ikale Tahi to learn what goes on a World Cup training camp:

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