Rugby tests could return to Tonga after long absence
It's expected that major upgrades to Tonga's national stadium, in the build up to the 2019 Pacific Games, will also allow the Tongan rugby team to play tests at home for the first time in a decade.
It's expected that major upgrades to Tonga's national stadium in the build up to the 2019 Pacific Games will also allow the Tongan rugby team to play tests at home for the first time in a decade.
New Zealand has announced it will contribute around $1.7 million US dollars towards upgrading Teufaiva (tear oh favour) Stadium in Nuku'alofa.
The Minister of Sport, Lord Vaea, told Bridget Tunnicliffe it will also bring the stadium in line with international rugby board standards.
LORD VAEA: First of all it's a rugby stadium that we're talking about. Firstly it'll allow our national team to come back and the improvement here will allow a lot of the top players to play back here in Tonga. Secondly, the development will allow our top athletes to start training immediately for the Pacific games in upgraded tracks, but moreso the importance the stadium will bring to a lot of people.
BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Will it be multifunctional? Will it be able to cater for different sports?
LV: It definitely will. We're hoping at this stage it'll cover a lot of the multisports. But, we also believe that we need to have a secondary stadium in order for our training and for our lesser international rugby to take place when we play locally.
BT: How long since there's been an international rugby match in Tonga?
LV: I think it's been close to a decade now.That's a long, long time for us. Mainly because the top players play overseas and secondly the insurance cover they require in order for them to play doesn't allow rugby grounds for the international players to play on so consequentially, we've missed out. This time round we're playing away to Fiji, playing away to Samoa, and we're playing the Barbarians at Ericsson Stadium (in Auckland). So, the improvement of the stadium will not only allow us to develop our sport but allow the rugby team to come back and play at home too.
BT: So the safety standards at the stadium just didn't meet international standards and was considered unsafe?
LV: Yes, the turf wasn't up to scratch and basically that's what the IRB wanted us to improve on. So we've taken this opportunity to bring up the tracks up to scratch as well, bring in 8 or 9 tracks for the stadium, and also put up a few other things like the extension of the seating for the spectators and of course allow the gymnasium to be improved too.
BT: So this will be a real centrepiece of the Pacific games in 2019?
LV: It will. But at the same time we're looking at the parking. We're looking at the development of the indoor stadium as well, because we need to improve and let our atheletes compete and train at a good facility as well.
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