10 Nov 2015

Sport: Rebuilding Tonga Sevens an ongoing process

1:15 pm on 10 November 2015

Tonga sevens coach Andy Katoa has named a rejigged squad for this weekend's Oceania Championships in Auckland, as he continues his efforts to build a team capable of footing it on the global stage.

Among the new faces are former New Zealand sevens rep Nafi Tuitivake, while players based in France, Japan and Australia have been selected to compliment the Tongan-based contingent.

North Harbour's Nafi Tuitavake tackled by Counties Manukau's Richard Judd during the ITM Cup match between North Harbour and Counties Manukau. QBE Stadium, Auckland, Saturday 12 September 2015. Copyright Photo: Raghavan Venugopal / www.photosport.nz

Nafi Tuitivake will represent Tonga at the Oceania Sevens Championship Photo: Photosport

Katoa has been in charge of the Tongan side for the past year and says it's an ongoing process of development in their goal to get back on the World Series.

"My staff and myself have been putting in some long hours trying to build the right culture for our athletes: lots of player identification modes, video analysis work, strength and conditioning - all those things Tonga's never really had before - so we implemented all those trying to give us the best possibility of success".

"Sometimes it's not always the top rugby player - it's always got to be the attitude, it's always got to be the way the person carries himself on and off the field so there's a combination of things that we look at. With myself and our staff we think that we've probably got the best group that can maybe take us forward at this point in time of where we are with the programme".

Andy Katoa has been doing double duties over the past two months, coaching and training the Tongan women's team alongside the men's.

Head coach Mopa Latu, who was in charge of the team at last year's Oceania tournament, is based in Australia but will be in Auckland to lead the team this weekend.

The men's and women's Oceania winners will earn direct entry to next years Rio Olympics, with the second and third placed teams qualifying for a global repechage tournament next year.

The Tongan men will take on Cook Islands, Nauru and Australia in pool play this Saturday, with the women up against Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Cook Islands.