Tonga name 13 debutants as part of inexperienced side to face All Blacks

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Tonga has named 13 debutants as part of an inexperienced side to face the All Blacks at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.

With most of Tonga’s first-choice squad based overseas in Europe, coach Toutai Kefu has been forced to look within New Zealand for players to put together his matchday 23.

Nine debutants make up the starting XV, with prop Duke Nginingini, Tasman hooker Sam Moli, lock Don Lolo, loose forwards Sione Tu’ipolotu, Hawke’s Bay’s Solomone Funaki and Mateaki Kafatolu, midfielder Nikolai Foliaki and Fine Inisi, and winger Hosea Saumaki all making their maiden test appearances.

On the bench, prop Tau Koloamatangi, lock Harrison Mataele, Counties Manukau loose forward Viliami Taulani and North Harbour winger Walter Fifita will all make their debuts.

In the starting lineup, Chiefs forward Zane Kapeli starts at lock, while former Highlanders captain Nasi Manu and ex-Crusaders halfback Leon Fukofuka will start from the bench.

Halfback Sonatane Takulua will captain the side, having travelled to New Zealand from French club Toulon.

The two sides last met in 2019, with the All Blacks winning 92-7 in Hamilton.

Tonga: 1-Duke Nginingini, 2-Sam Moli, 3-Sila Puafisi, 4-Don Lolo, 5-Zane Kapeli, 6-Mateaki Kafatolu, 7-Solomone Funaki, 8-Sione Tu’ipolotu, 9-Sonatane Takulua (c), 10-Kalione Hala, 11-Penikolo Latu, 12-Nikolai Foliaki, 13-Fini Inisi, 14-Hosea Saumaki, 15-James Faiva.

Reserves: 16-Siua Maile, 17-Jethro Felemi, 18-Tau Koloamatangi, 19-Harrison Mataele, 20-Viliami Taulani, 21-Nasi Manu, 22-Leon Fukofuka, 23-Walter Fifita

SOURCE: NEWSHUB/PACNEWS