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By ILIESA TORA

Nuku’alofa – September 14, 2021: 2pm (Nuku’alofa Times): Local rugby players have the chance to showcase their talents and skills in the Tonga Rugby Union Centennial Rugby Championship which kicks off on Friday at Te’ufaiva Park here in Nuku’alofa.

A total of 16 teams – 8 in the men’s and 8 in the women’s divisions – will be involved.

Around $500,000 pa’anga has been used for the event, jointly put together by the TRU, Government and World Rugby.

Tournament director ‘Aisea Aholelei with the Vahe Kolo jersey during the media launch. Photo: SAMUELA TORA

Tournament Director ‘Aisea Aholelei told the media at the special launch this morning that the event is part of the pathway now being drawn up for local players – with the ‘Ikale Tahi as the ultimate prize.

“The tournament will not just end after it closes in three weeks,” he told the media at the TRU office in Nuku’alofa.

“This is part of the pathway that is being put together for local players and that includes from the primary schools to national level.”

TRU Chief Executive Officer Peter Harding said the event has come at the right time and it will feature players who have been selected as the best from their respective unions.

TRU CEO Peter Harding speaking at the media launch. Photo: SAMUELA TORA

He said they have bene working on a player database to help them track players who have come through the ranks.

“So this is an exciting event and we want to take it forward after that,” he added.

TRU is working with partners like the New Zealand High Commission and others in putting together a comprehensive pathway.

The Centennial event will kick off on Friday and will run every Saturday after that.

Winners will receive $10,000 (men’s) and $5,000 (women’s teams).

While the men’s competition will be a full 15 a side event the women will be involved in a 7s event.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs had organised the current Vahefonua Under-16 competition.

The event is being held at Te’ufaiva Stadium with teams from the islands and Tongatapu featuring in that.

‘Aisea Aholelei (left), Maluafisi Falekaono and Peter Harding with team jersies at the media launch at the TRU Office in Nuku’alofa this morning. Photo: ILIESA TORA

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