Tameifuna leads from the front row – Tonga name team to play Ireland

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Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu has named his match-day 23 to face Ireland at Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on Saturday, with captain Ben Tameifuna forming part of a heavyweight front row.

Kefu has included four former All Blacks in Tonga’s starting XV: full-back Salesi (Charles) Piutau, centre Malakai Fekitoa, scrum-half Augustine Pulu and number eight Vaea Fifita.

Fekitoa is bidding to become only the second player after Frank Bunce (Samoa/New Zealand) to score for two different countries at a Rugby World Cup. The centre scored tries for New Zealand against Namibia and Georgia at RWC 2015.

Tonga will be captained by former New Zealand U20s tight-head prop, Ben Tameifuna. He is joined in a huge front-row by loose-head Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and hooker Paula Ngauamo. Between them, the trio weigh 387kgs.

Augustine Pulu, who won two All Blacks caps in 2014, is preferred to regular captain Sonatane Takulua at scrum-half, renewing his half-back partnership with William Havili from the 2022 tour to Romania.

Takulua became the first Tonga player to win 50 caps for ‘Ikale Tahi when he played against Japan in July and has clocked up more minutes than any of his team-mates this year (329) but has to settle for a place on the bench for the first time since July 2015 (v Fiji). The Agen player is set to play in his third Rugby World Cup having made his tournament debut in the defeat to Georgia at RWC 2015.

Second-row Leva Fifita has made all 26 of his tackles in 2023.

1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi
2 Paula Ngauamo
3 Ben Tameifuna (c)
4 Sam Lousi
5 Halaleva Fifita
6 Tanginoa Halaifonua
7 Sione Talitui
8 Vaea Fifita
9 Augustine Pulu
10 William Havili
11 Solomone Kata
12 Pita Ahki
13 Malakai Fekitoa
14 Afusipa Taumoepeau
15 Salesi Piutau

Replacements:
16 Sam Moli
17 Tau Koloamatangi
18 Sosefo Apikotoa
19 Semisi Paea
20 Solomone Funaki
21 Sione Vailanu
22 Sonatane

SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS