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In brief: sport news from around the Pacific

Tuesday 1 February 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional, Tonga

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In brief: sport news from around the Pacific
Photo: OFC Media

Tonga has withdrawn from the Oceania leg of this year's World Cup following last month's volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Tonga withdraws from football World Cup

The national team was due to play off against the Cook Islands on March 13 in a single-leg qualifying match to decide the final spot for the qualifying tournament in Qatar.

Tonga's withdrawal means the Cook Islands will automatically join the Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu in Group A.

Oceania Football Federation General Secretary Franck Castillo says while it is disappointing, the decision is understandable.

"The focus for much of Tonga right now - including members of the football community - is on rebuilding their lives and caring for family members and friends who have been impacted by the disaster," Castillo said.

Toutai Kefu will coach a star-studded Tongan invitational side against a vintage Queensland Reds outfit to raise funds for the nation's recovery effort.

Tonga coach Kefu is himself recovering, after a terrifying home invasion last August resulted in the former Wallabies great in hospital and his wife, son and daughter all injured.

But he'll be back for a 40-minute curtain-raiser to the Reds' Super Rugby Pacific home opener on February 19 at Lang Park in Brisbane.

George Smith, Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri will all feature for the Tongan side; James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham and David Croft will lace up the boots for the Vintage Reds.

The disaster was felt heavily across Australian rugby, given many players' strong family ties to Tonga.

"It means a great deal to me, my family and my community to get the opportunity to raise some funds for our people," Kefu said.

"Our country has been devastated by this disaster, so every cent we can raise counts.

"We've got some great players strapping on the boots for both teams and it's going to be a great spectacle, with some great rugby played."

The Papua New Guinea Football Association has named its final 25-man squad for the men's World Cup regional qualifiers in Qatar from March 14-30.

Association general secretary Pius Letenge said Fifa has given the organisation an exemption to prepare another list of players who will be non-travelling reserves in case of an emergency.

The squad will be accompanied by eight team officials who will be departing for Qatar on March 7.

Association president John Kapi Natto said the players who missed the cut would be on standby to replace an injured player or in the case when a player is sick or unavailable.

"In our preparations, there was no (international) friendly matches, it's hard to get across the borders (due to the Coronavirus restrictions).

"Our (coaching) team has been working on how we can prepare the squad amid the pandemic, especially without playing against other countries and finding where we stand."

Squad: Ronald Warisan, Russel Chris, Ila Ilarova (goalkeepers), Alwin Komolong, Philip Steven, Felix Komolong, Joshua Talau, Daniel Joe, Koriak Upaiga, Emmanuel Airem, Gimale Essau (defenders), David Muta, Emmanuel Simon, Jacob Sabua, Yagi Yasasa, Michael Foster, Stahl Gubag, Ati Kepo, Obert Bika, Pala Paul (midfielders), Raymond Gunemba, Kolu Kepo, Mathew David, Patrick Aisa and Tommy Semmy (forwards), Marcos Gusmao (head coach), Bob Morris (assistant coach), Roy Kamen (head of delegation), Joseph Ealedona (team manager), Joshua Kayengkim (assistant team manager), Godfrey Baniau (goalkeeping coach), Samson Steven (kit manager), Jimmy Kepas (physiotherapist).

Help arrives to ensure Pacific Games happens

More staff from overseas have arrived in Honiara to support construction work on the 2023 Games facilities.

"Due to the combination of COVID-19 and the social unrest in November/December period, the progress of construction is badly affected, said Chairman of the Solomon Islands National Hosting Authority Jimmie Rodgers.

"With the current workforce we will not be able to complete the facilities on time for the games next year. The additional staff will ensure the facilities are completed in time for the Games."

Rodgers said the additional staff will support the Pacific Games project and Pacific Games Village for accommodation at SINU Kukum Campus which will then be transferred by the NHA/PG 2023 to SINU as accommodation for its students.