Rugby in Tonga will get a chance to rise from the ashes as World Rugby has established the Tonga Rugby Infrastructure and Rebuilding Fund.
The governing body of the sport has pledged $195,000 to kick-start the restoration of Tonga’s rugby infrastructure impacted by January’s volcanic eruption and tsunami.
The natural disasters had impacted the playing fields, the high performance gymnasiums and administration block of the local Tonga Rugby Union.
Tonga Rugby chief executive officer Peter Harding said the assistance from World Rugby will help the Tonga Rugby Union to find constructive ways of assisting the sport to recover from the volcanic eruption and tsunami.
“The board of the TRU want to thank World Rugby for the generous donation and will use the assistance to recover installations and infrastructure to encourage and improve the services to our players on the island,” said Harding.
The volcanic eruptions and the pandemic had also meant that the sport was at a standstill on the local scene.
Tongan rugby players playing for European, Australian and New Zealand clubs have been busy and most of these players will come together to form the national team, Ikale Tahi for the Pacific Nations Cup in July and then the qualifiers for the World Cup.
Tonga Rugby Infrastructure and Rebuilding Fund Chair, Brett Robinson, said he had close ties to Tonga, and in particular having played with lifelong friends in Toutai Kefu (Souths, Reds and Wallabies) and Ipolito Fenukitau (Brumbies).
“The importance of supporting the rebuilding of Tongan rugby infrastructure through World Rugby takes on a special meaning for me,” he said.
“Tonga is one of world rugby’s great rugby nations and it also plays a significant role on the islands for the health and wellbeing of the Tongan community.
“World Rugby, with our global rugby community, was horrified to observe the devastation of the impacts of the tsunami earlier this year, and along with broader humanitarian support that’s been provided the rebuilding of rugby infrastructure will be critical in the nation getting back on its feet again.”
The fund will finance capital projects such as the rebuilding of the Tonga Rugby Union’s offices and high-performance gymnasium as well as the rehabilitation of rugby grounds across Tonga.
World Rugby will also set-up a process to facilitate donations by member unions, regions, rugby bodies and individuals and empower its global family to support the return of rugby in Tonga.
The $195,000 grant will supplement World Rugby’s annual funding to support the union.