20 Sep 2003

Tongan rugby chief says future tours of NZ jeopardised by runaway players

10:00 am on 20 September 2003

The Chief Executive Officer of the Tonga Rugby Union, Sakopo Lolohea, says the actions of the 14 overstaying rugby players in New Zealand will jeopardise future tours.

The members of the Vava'u Under-21 rugby side were due to fly out of Auckland earlier this month but did not catch their flight, sparking calls from immigration officials to return home.

Mr Lolohea says his union is disappointed with the side and it's management, after they gave immigration officials guarantees of the team's return.

"We have written to the President of the Vava'u sub-union in Tonga here, expressing very deep embarrasment at what has happened and informing him there will be no more tours from Vava'u to New Zealand supported by the Tonga Rugby Union in the future, until all the players are back."

Mr Lolohea says a sevens team which was planning to attend a tournament in New Zealand later this year may now not do so.