9 Jun 2017

Sport: Seven new caps in Tongan rugby squad

3:46 pm on 9 June 2017

Seven new caps have been included in the 'Ikale Tahi rugby squad for tests against Wales, Samoa and Fiji.

Crusaders and former New Zealand Under 20s halfback Leon Fukofuka is poised to make his test debut against Wales, as part of the 'Pasifika Challenge' double header at Eden Park next Friday.

Crusaders halfback Leon Fukofuka has been selected by Tonga.

Crusaders halfback Leon Fukofuka has been selected by Tonga. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Former Australian sevens representative 'Atieli Pakalani has also been included after missing last year's Northern Tour through injury, while Auckland-based Kiti Taimani is another new face to the outside back ranks.

Waikato props Latu Talakai and and Siegfried Fisi'ihoi - a Chiefs Super Rugby player - will add some beef to the front row options and are joined by provincial teammate Leva Fifita in earning their first call-up to the Tongan squad.

 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi playing for the Chiefs against Wales in 2016.

Siegfried Fisi'ihoi playing for the Chiefs against Wales in 2016. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The other new cap is Northland loose forward Michael Faleafa, while Racing 92 prop Ben Tameifuna is set to finally play his first test, after multiple call-ups and withdrawals from previous 'Ikale Tahi teams.

Head coach Toutai Kefu said Bristol midfielder Siale Piutau will continue as captain following their unbeaten November tour, which was capped by a memorable victory over Italy.

Tonga rugby coach Toutai Kefu

Tonga rugby coach Toutai Kefu Photo: Photosport

Former captain Nili Latu is back in the team despite only recently returning from a long injury layoff, while 21-test prop Tevita Mailau is out after announcing his retirement from international rugby.

Toutai Kefu said number eight Tevita Koloamatangi, flankers Maama Vaipulu and Sione Kalamafoni and Leicester Tigers fullback Telusa Veainu were ruled out through injury.

'Ikale Tahi Squad:

Ben Tameifuna Racing 92

Latu Talakai Waikato

Siegfried Fisi'ihoi Waikato

Sila Puafisi CS Brive

Siua Halanukonuka Highlanders

Sione Lea Taranaki

Paula Ngauamo Mont De Marsan

Suliasi Taufalele Counties Manukau

Dan Faleafa SC ALBI

Leva Fifita Waikato

Steve Mafi Castres

Jack Ram Doncaster Knights

Michael Faleafa Northland

Nili Latu Newcastle Falcons

Sione Tau Agen

Valentino Mapapalangi Leicester Tigers

Leon Fukofuka Crusaders

Sonatane Takulua Lapaha Newcastle Falcons

Kali Hala Counties Manukau

Latiume Fosita Auckland

Siale Piutau Bristol

Tevita Taufui Waikato

Viliami Tahitua Yamaha

'Atieli Pakalani Southern Districts

Cooper Vuna Worcester Warriors

David Halaifonua Gloucester

Nafi Tu'itavake Northampton Saints

Kiti Taimani Vaini Grammar TEC

Extended Training Squad:

Sione Lolohea Sila Pelu Ua

Phil Kite Brisbane NRC

Harrison Mataele North Harbour

Otenili Moala Waikato

Vainanuma Manu Marist Apifo'ou

Sefo Ma'ake Havelu Bulldogs

Tuihakavalu Ika Toloa Old Boys