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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK


Tonga: Rugby's crazy gang

Big-hitters: Tevita Tiueti charges through a tackle against Georgia

Tonga go into the Rugby World Cup as the team everyone wants to watch but nobody wants to play, the Wimbledon FC for the rugby world.

Everyone is aware of the reputation Samoa have built up over the last two World Cups for bone-crunching tackling - yet the Tongans go in just as hard and if New Zealand and England believe this is the game in which to rest their stars they are in for a shock.

New coaching adviser Phil Pretorius explained: "The Tongans are a warrior race. They are fearless and the more experienced ones will ignite the rest of the players."

They change their coaches on a regular basis - but for the World Cup have settled on Polutele Tu'ihalamaka, the fire chief of the capital city Nuku'alofa.

Inspirational leader

A veteran of the 1987 World Cup campaign - he was 38 when he played in the first tournament - Tu'ihalamaka possesses the managerial skills needed for the team and he has the playing experience to command the respect of the squad.

The second row represented Tonga for 14 years, and was even in the side that grabbed a memorable 1973 win over Australia in Brisbane and the 11-3 victory against the New Zealand Maoris the same year.

Discipline is going to be a huge factor for the committed and passionate Tongans and the biggest problem for Tu'ihalamaka.

During their qualification, a worryingly high number of Tongans received red cards.

Centre Sam Alatini and prop Joe Sitoa were dismissed in the early stages of qualification, while Semisi Fakaosifolau went off in repechage stage against Georgia and Etuate Manu against Korea.

Even if they keep all 15 on the field against England and New Zealand, in-discipline with penalties will cost them as the both sides have some of the best kickers in the tournament, in Jonny Wilkinson/Paul Grayson and Andrew Mehrtens respectively.

World Cup squad:

Backs: Salesi Finau (capt), Sione Mone Tu'ipulotu, 'Elisi Vunipola and Brian Wooley.Semisi Faka'osifolau, Sililo Marten, 'Epeli Taione, 'Isi Tapueluelu, Taunaholo Taufahema, Siua Taumalolo, Semi Taupeaafe, Fepikou Tatafu, Tevita Tiueti, Sateki Tu'ipulotu,

Forwards: Latiume Maka, Tamieni Penisini, Ngalu Ta'u, Tevita Taumoepeau, Mat Te Pou, Va'a Toloke, Katilione Tu'ipulotu, Fe'ao Vunipola, David Edwards, Ta'u Fainga'anuku, Kuli Faletau, Puku Faletau, 'Isi Fatani, Benhur Kivalu, Sonatane Koloi, Falamani Mafi,



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Rugby World Cup 1999
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