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But Fekitoa will miss out because of injury


Nuku’alofa – October 5, 2021: 3.50pm (Nuku’alofa Times): The ‘Ikale Tahi will still go ahead with its planned four-match Europe Tour at the end of this month, the Tonga Rugby Union confirmed today.

Chief Executive Officer Peter Harding told Times Sports at the TRU Office here in Nuku’alofa that the tour is happening.

This followed queries after news was received that the Manu Samoa rugby union side has pulled put of its planned tour of Europe.

“We are going on the tour. The difficulty around the tour was mainly because of COVID,” Harding said.

“We will have to go into a bubble, especially in the first two weeks. It is very very tight but very well controlled. We committed to this tour a long time ago.”

But the current COVID challenge means the tour squad, which is expected to be announced this weekend, will see no players from Tonga and Australia on the trip.

“The only players we are taking from New Zealand are players who have contracts in Europe,” Harding said.

“We have confirmed everybody.”

And star former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa will miss out because of a shoulder injury.

Harding said Fekitoa will go through surgery and should be ready to play for Tonga in the Rugby World Cup qualifier clash against Hong Kong next year.

The tour squad is expected to assemble in Edinburgh by October 23 and will play matches against Scotland, England, Barbarians and Romania.

Head coach Toutai Kefu will miss the tour, as he recovers with his family from the attack they endured during a home invasion in early September.

Harding said a management team has been put together to manage the side on tour.

Meanwhile, Manu Samoa have cancelled their looming rugby tour of Europe because of Covid-19 implications.

Samoa were set to play Georgia, Uruguay, Spain and the British Barbarians in November.

The Barbarians clash at Twickenham on November 27 had already sold more than 30,000 tickets. It is expected a “Manu Samoa selection” could still take the field in London, drawn from Europe-based players and coaches.

“Lakapi Samoa was not able to guarantee the safety of any of our players and management whilst on campaign and the current state of emergency measures by the government restricts the return of anyone within six months of contacting the virus,” Lakapi Samoa CEO Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai said in a statement.

“This was a major obstacle to keep our borders safe. We do accept the implications and scale of consequences the pandemic can have to our small country with limited resources.”

Head coach Seilala Mapusua said health considerations had to come ahead of rugby in these difficult times.

“It’s disappointing and really tough for our players, fans and our hosting unions,” he said.

“As head coach, our performance and reputation to our brand is severely hampered if we cannot get our team together.

“However, the safety and well-being of protecting Samoa from the current Covid-19 variant pandemic was ultimately the right call.”

Samoa secured their 2023 Rugby World Cup position earlier this year, beating Tonga in New Zealand.

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