'You’ll see that': Piutau backs revamped Tonga to produce at the World Cup
Former All Black Charles Piutau is ready to finally feature at the game’s showpiece event, the Rugby World Cup, later this year and predicted some extra excitement this time around.
This year’s World Cup in France is first since the eligibility laws were amended to allow players to switch nations following a stand-down period.
For Piutau, who lost eligibility for the All Blacks when he took up a deal with Premiership side Wasps in 2015, will be able to represent Tonga and attend the first World Cup of his career.
Speaking to 1News on Zoom from Japan after the announcement of his new deal with the Shizuoka Blue Revs, Piutau was ecstatic over the possibility of playing in France for the nation of his family heritage.
“I see the World Cup as the pinnacle of our game and to have the opportunity of being selected to be on that world stage and to match my abilities against the best speaks for itself,” Piutau said.
“It will be, if I’m given the opportunity, my first World Cup, and just the joy and excitement just thinking of it is a lot.
“For what it means for Tonga in terms of the eligibility regulations is just a massive shift for tier two nations and to see some of the guys who have been able to use that eligibility shift is exciting in itself and you’ll see that in the games at the World Cup.”
Tonga have been grouped in Pool B with heavyweights Ireland and South Africa, while Scotland are also in the mix for what will be a ‘pool of death’.
But the Ikale Tahi will be a much stronger opponent with many former internationals of tier one countries completing transfers.
Former All Black midfielder Malakai Fekitoa was capped in 2022 along with former Wallabies superstar Israel Folau.
Other former All Blacks who have been capped by Tonga include blindside flanker Vaea Fifita, centre George Moala and halfback Augustine Pulu.
The new look Tonga will add intrigue to Pool B and be looking to add a big scalp to their five previous wins over tier one nations.
For Piutau personally, he does not hold any regret over his early decision to leave New Zealand and feels like there is ‘nothing to prove’ ahead of his first World Cup campaign.
“I’ve never looked back or regretted that decision and seeing so far how my career has panned out and I’ve just been very grateful and happy,” he said.
“Going into this World Cup I have nothing to prove on the world stage. It’s just a chance to enjoy it and test my abilities.”
The 31-year-old said he took the experience from his time in All Blacks’ set-up with him across his career, particularly learning from greats of the game on how to deal with pressure.
“The thing that I’ve learned from being part of the All Blacks was professionalism,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to be part of the team when legends of the game like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter were still playing.
“So I was able to see how they would prepare for a game and soak that in. With the All Blacks jersey there was always an expectation from the country to perform and to be No 1.
“To be able to deal with that pressure and play under that pressure was a skill I took out of that.”
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That will count against Ireland when Boks face them at rwcGo to comments
Still worries me how pedestrian ruck clearance a d tactical kicking are from Super sides. NH ruck clearance and kicking are so much better in the North.Go to comments