One of the smallest and proudest Rugby nations on earth will mark its Centenary celebrations of Rugby being played in the Kingdom of Tonga this weekend.
Tonga is well known for punching above its weight globally, despite the challenges it faces in keeping regular squads together and bringing players in from all around the world to represent the red jersey.
With a new CEO this year in Australian Peter Harding, the small union is starting to re-build strong plans at a community, pathways and national level.
The celebrations will be marked this weekend across the island, as the TRU looks back at a successful 100 years of Rugby.
“We’ve got a centenary competition coming up and Tongan Rugby will celebrate it proudly,” Harding said.
“We also just had competitions on Vava'u and Tongatapu; their regular season competitions which has gone very well.
“Due to COVID-19 no one has been able to leave the Islands which has created a really high standard of competition.
“We’ve got a big focus on the Women’s game presently; we’re pushing as hard as we can and we’re working with the Government and partners to get the assistance we need to secure additional senior positions within the Union that we want to move forward with.
“We want to increase women and girl’s participation and get new people playing the game in Tonga, as we look to refresh the Women’s National team.”
Planning for the Future
“We have a pretty straight forward goal for the next two World Cup cycles when it comes to the National Men’s team,” Harding said.
“By 2027, we want to be a regular top ten team. That’s always been the goal but there hasn’t been a great deal of depth to make sure that happens consistently.
“2027 is a realistic opportunity to achieve that for the Ikale Tahi.
“For the next World Cup, our team’s goal has to be regional qualification. The group we’re likely to go into if we do qualify for France 2023 is Pool B with South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and potentially Romania.
“We need to win two games to qualify automatically from that group which is possible.”
When their best players are available, Tonga are no strangers to being giant killers on the international stage having famously defeated France 19-14 just over ten years ago at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
At the 2019 iteration of the tournament in Japan, Tonga was almost able to repeat the magical moment, just falling short against France, 23-21 at Kumamoto Stadium.