Tonga’s qualification battle for a place at Rugby World Cup 2023 in France will continue at Sunshine Coast Stadium next month with the Asia/Pacific Play off.
Kicking off on July 23, Tonga will face the Asia Champion with the winner of the match to secure qualification at Rugby’s biggest event next year in Pool B where they will face Scotland, Ireland and South Africa, with one other side to join from Europe.
The team that loses the match will still have one final chance at qualification in November 2022.
The ‘Ikale Tahi have only failed to compete at a Rugby World Cup once, in 1991.
Tonga will arrive into this match on the back of the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji to face the Asia Championship winner which will be determined in early July with Hong Kong, Malaysia and Korea all in the running.
Speaking at the announcement Aisea Aholelei, Tonga Rugby Union and Oceania Rugby Board Member, said:
“Tonga Rugby is grateful to be partnering with Oceania Rugby to bring this unique event to this picturesque location – and thank the Sunshine Coast for opening your arms to us.
“The impacts of covid and Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai are still affecting many lives in the Kingdom, and we hope a win here will remind everyone what Tonga is all about, strength of character, determination, attractive beaches and rugby.”
The Sunshine Coast understands to a degree what the people of Tonga are continuing to face as a region that is also continuing in a disaster recovery from recent weather events.
Sunshine Coast Council Head of Economic Development, Andrew Eves-Brown said “Sponsoring and hosting events like this on the Sunshine Coast contribute towards achieving our Major Events Strategy objectives in several ways.
“This Test match, will assist in positioning the region as a high-performance sports destination among Pacific nations and the wider World Rugby community. We know that the people of Tonga are fiercely proud of their team and we thank them for entrusting the Sunshine Coast to host this event.
Tonga Head Coach, Toutai Kefu said he was looking forward to continuing Ikale Tahi’s campaign in his native Queensland.
“We are happy with the squad we have just announced and being together for three weeks ahead of this match will be fantastic preparation for the team.
“There are a number of new faces entering the squad who have really jumped at the opportunity and will be very proud to wear red and white for the first time this year.
“Rugby World Cup qualification is incredibly challenging, and there are no easy Test matches, but we are really looking forward to facing them as a wider squad.
“I know the Sunshine Coast community will really get behind us and I look forward to seeing plenty of red in the crowd at Sunshine Coast Stadium on July 23.
This project has received funding from the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the 2019 Queensland Bushfires Local Economic Recovery Program.
The Program was established to support projects that contribute to the economic and/or social recovery of the communities most heavily impacted by the Queensland Bushfires and reduce the impact of future events on the community.
SOURCE: OCEANIA RUGBY/PACNEWS