By Iliesa Tora

Tonga defence coach Dale MacLeod says the experience of playing against top teams like the Springboks has given the players more knowledge as they continue their preparation for their last pool match against Romania.

He said despite the loss the team learned a lot.

“There were a lot of positives. We can be really proud of a lot of the things that are starting to grow in our group,” he said.

“Right across our whole game there were some real positives against the world champions.

“They are a very, very good side – we can be pretty proud of our performance.

“You can see if we were playing another tier-one team next week we’d be right in the fight. If we had played this well against Ireland and Scotland they probably would have been different score lines I believe.

MacLeod said there needs to be more opportunities for tier 2 nations.

“It was so iconic to play against a team like the Springboks and you think about it, 16 years [since the last time Tonga played South Africa] – that is a lot of players that don’t get to do that. That needs to be better.”

He said they had focused on each team each week and now turn their focus to Romania.

“We looked at it and thought, especially with the teams we have played, three of the top five in the world – we just had to take every game week by week,” he said.

“Rugby players like it that way.

“You start talking too far into the future, they forget about the tasks they are on and you don’t get the performance you want.”

MacLeod also joined the call for World Rugby to do more for tier-2 teams like Tonga so they can develop and be on par with the best in the world.

“I think it’s a World Rugby thing and how that could work is when you do a northern tour at the end of each year, they get an opportunity to play one of the home nations,” he said.

“We came over last year, we played four tests but never got to play against a tier one.

“You look at Fiji and Samoa – they have been pretty proactive around that. They consistently each year get some tier one.

“That is a little bit of World Rugby but that’s also a little bit of Tonga and their connections and interactions.”

“For us we want to keep the boys fresh so it’ll probably be a little bit less this week. We travel today so that has a toll on the players as well which is not ideal,” MaLeod said.

“We will travel back to Paris and we’ll have a very light couple of days, Thursday off, main training Friday and just prepare for Romania,” he said.