'We've seen the Springboks slip up against Japan': Tonga should be considered a serious threat
After the recent naming of Tonga’s squad for the Pacific Nations Cup, the strength of their squad is obvious with a number of ex-international players now available.
The squad features former All Blacks and Wallabies in Malakai Fekitoa, Charles Piutau, Augustine Pulu, and Israel Folau as well as the possible inclusion of George Moala and forwards Vaea Fifita, Adam Coleman and Sekope Kepu come November.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Podcast, Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall and former All Black hooker James Parsons shared their views on the Tongan side and the likely strengths and deficiencies for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup.
Tonga has been drawn in Pool B along side South Africa, Ireland, and Scotland for next year’s World Cup in France.
“It won’t be easy but the pressure is not on them,” Parsons said of their World Cup draw.
“We’ve seen the Springboks slip up against Japan before, Ireland have had moments as well and they’ve just got nothing to lose.
“They’ve got time together now. This is not just going to be a short lead in, they’ve got a good year to embed some systems and processes.
“Tonga aren’t going to be easy to dominate physically, so they’ll have to come up with a different style or they just go head-to-head and the best man wins out of those collisions.”
Speaking about those that have switched allegiances, Parsons explained how much Tonga will benefit from the experience they are bringing in.
“They really want to be there; they have wanted to be there for a number of years,” Parsons said.
“Now they have the opportunity they will want to make every post a winner. They are now a serious threat. It’s not just the skill set of those players.
“The IP [intellectual property] they have got from the years of high performance environments they have been in, and their ability to up skill those around them and help the coaches in terms of systems and game plans.
“There is just so much to like and get excited about…This just adds more energy to our game, it’s exactly what we need.”
However, with such a great roster there still remains some weaknesses. Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall questioned whether the side possessed the right players to manage the game effectively in the big test matches.
“I think the game management is going to be a big part of that. I don’t know which direction they will go [playing either William Havili, or James Faiva],” Hall said.
“I think [William Havili] having time with Tasman and then being able to play in key games and see decision making with Mitch Hunt, being able to see what that looks like.
“If they play too much, what’s plan B? Are they going to be able to have the kicking game?
“Augustine Pulu will be massive for them. Sonatane Takulua is there, who has been a stalwart of Tongan rugby. Having that one-two punch is going to be great for them and they have great decision makers around that.
“Again, it’s just being able to be real smart, game management wise.
“You have guys like Charlie Piutau, George Moala who have been in those big games and experiences being able to give that to the likes of Fine Inisi, who’s a young player in that team.
“Physicality wise they are always there or thereabouts, they will bring that, they always bring that as a Tongan team. But it’s those game management skills. They have got enough players there now that can really understand that and hopefully get the best out of that moving forward.”
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