Tonga tackle a different type of opposition
By Kenji Demura
After a brave performance against an Australian side littered with Super 14 players, Tonga faced a new challenge on Wednesday in the shape of local school children in Fukuoka.
Tonga's Under 20s have been based in Fukuoka during their Pool D campaign at the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship and as part of the tournament's legacy programme they paid a visit to the Jiromaru Junior High School.
The squad joined the children during regular lessons and also enjoyed playing rugby with pupils and coaching around 500 students. They taught them how to pass the ball and to tackle – and of course they performed the Sipi Tau, the Tongan version of the haka, in front of a captivated audience.
Yuki Akine, the captain of the school rugby team, was impressed by the Tongan players’ attitude and was pleased to have learnt some vital skills he can take back to his teammates.
“They were extremely big and their friendliness was unbelievable. This experience was unforgettable for me. One day I want to be a player who can break tackles of big guys like them with speed,” the wing said.
The event was also enjoyed by the Tongan players themselves and their captain Halaleva Fifita admitted they had “had a very good time and enjoyed playing with students who could respect us a lot.”
Tonga lost their first two pool matches against Wales, a semi finalist from last year, and one of the tournament favourites Australia. However their match on Saturday against Canada is their most important as only the winner will qualify for next year’s IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina.
Their head coach John Edwards knows the importance of the match and is hoping they can change their fortunes against the Canadians, who are also looking for their first Pool D win in Saga.
“Against Wales and Australia we had no space to run and our scrum struggled to feed the ball to our backs, and that is what we would like to improve on for Saturday’s game,” said Edwards.
** Watch the climax of Pool C in Osaka live and on-demand for free on Saturday 13 June. First up will be Italy's encounter with Fiji at 13:00 local time, followed by South Africa's battle with France at 19:00 to determine who will travel to Tokyo to contest the semi finals. **
** You can also watch on-demand the Pool B matches (England v Japan and Samoa v Scotland) on 5 June, the Pool A matches (Uruguay v Argentina and Ireland v New Zealand) on 9 June, along with highlights of both matchdays. **