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Battling for players

Tuesday 26 May 2015 | Published in Regional


SYDNEY – The head of the Tonga Rugby Union says it’s a sad fact that some of the country’s best players will not be at the World Cup later this year.

Player release and international eligibility were again hot topics during last week’s Oceania Rugby AGM in Sydney.

Pacific nations are battling to select some of their best players, who face significant drops in income from their club sides if they opt to turn out for their country at the World Cup.

The Chair and President of the Tonga Rugby Union, Epeli Taione, says a number of other players are eligible to represent Pacific countries but are holding on to an unlikely goal of playing for the All Blacks or Wallabies.

“The fact that we’re going to the World Cup and some of our best players are not part of it is quite sad. It’s not really a reflection on what the World Cup should be.

“Due respect to New Zealand: they’ve done their work – and Australia – to see Tongans sitting there watching the World Cup. Even worse, they will probably play one test and they are never ever going to play for New Zealand again.

“And here were are hamstrung on our way to the World Cup and limping out of it, which is quite a sad situation for world rugby.

“I think really they should take a good look at themselves and stop protecting themselves alone and looking after themselves and start to consider other smaller nations”.

Taione says it’s not too late for players who are eligible for Tonga to declare their availability.

Following the Pacific Nations Cup, the ‘Ikale Tahi will travel to England for three World Cup warm up matches against Cardiff, Romania and a yet to be confirmed opponent.