Rugby Australia and Tonga Rugby Union have confirmed that an Australia A team will travel to Tonga to play the Tonga national team on 14 July.
The fixture will be a key match-up for both teams as the Wallabies and the Ikale Tahi continue their preparations for the Rugby World Cup in France later this year.
The sides will clash in the Pacific Island nation on the 50th anniversary of Tonga’s victory over the Wallabies at Ballymore in Brisbane; a match of great significance to Australia and Tonga where Fatai Kefu, the father of current Tonga coach and Wallabies legend Toutai Kefu, represented the Ikale Tahi.
The match is a continuation of the Australian Government’s investment in the development of Rugby throughout the Pacific through the PacificAus Sports program, and follows significant investment to support Pacific Rugby pathways in partnership with Oceania Rugby.
Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy MP, hailed the excitement surrounding the event.
“The invitation for an Australian team to play Tonga at their home ground in Nuku’alofa, 50 years after the famous Test match in Brisbane – exemplifies our countries’ close relationship on and off the sporting field.
“The Albanese Government is proud to be supporting this historic match because we understand the power of our shared love of sport to bring Australians and people across the Pacific even closer together.”
The Australia A programme was re-introduced in 2022, with tours to Fiji and Japan, and saw a number of players go on to make their debuts for the Wallabies on the season-ending tour of Europe and the UK, such as Langi Gleeson, Jock Campbell, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Ben Donaldson.
Rugby Australia’s General Manager, National High-Performance Programs, Adrian Thompson says the success of last year’s program showed its importance to the elite level of Rugby in Australia.
“Last year showed how the Australia A program can help advance players take that next step into international Rugby,” he said.
“It also provides some extra game-time for players on the fringes of the Wallabies squad – which will be increasingly important in this truncated Rugby World Cup season.
“Tonga has built an impressive squad under Toutai Kefu, and they will be tough competition for Australia A and at the World Cup later this year – it will be a great hit-out for both teams.”
Australia A will play the Ikale Tahi at 3:00pm local time (12:00pm AEST) on 14 July at Teufaiva Stadium in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.