28 Sep 2007

Tongan crowds march in support of rugby team

5:01 pm on 28 September 2007

Tongans have gathered in their thousands in the capital Nuku'alofa today to show support for the Ikale Tahi, the national rugby side, ahead of its World Cup match against England.

Victory in tomorrow morning's game in Paris will put Tonga into the World Cup quarter finals for the first time.

The parade, which has also successfully raised about 30,000 US dollars to pay for the team's air fares home, is the biggest event in the capital since the destructive riots in November last year.

Parts of the capital remain under a state of emergency and our correspondent in Nuku'Alofa, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the parade almost did not go ahead.

"The parade was not permitted by the Ministry of Police - we were told last night that that was the official response from the Minister of Police, but this morning the Department of Police and the traffic police who were at the scene where the parade was to begin, they just could not stop the people, there were too many people and too many vehicles."

Mateni Tapueluelu in Nuku'alofa.

Fiji also have an opportunity to make the quarter finals this weekend when they meet Wales in France.