When Tonga and Hong Kong face off in the Rugby World Cup qualifiers this weekend in Australia, it will be the first time these two nations will ever compete.
For Hong Kong, history is theirs for the making as a win over their Pacific rivals will see the Asian team making their first appearance in the World Cup. Tonga have played in all except in 1991.
The winner of this matchup will be qualifying as Asia/Pacific One for the RWC and will be pooled with defending world champions South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, and Europe Two qualifiers.
Tonga Rugby Union chief executive officer Peter Harding has told The Pacific Advocate that there will be no changes to the squad that played Australia A during the final round of the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC).
Despite their 39 – 22 loss to the Aussies during the final round, the Tongan coaching staff were quite optimistic about their chances heading into the RWC qualifiers.
“There are no other ways about it, this is a serious game for us and we are taking it very seriously because we will be playing against a very tough Hong Kong team, who are coming out of two back-to-back victories. They are here at the qualifiers on merit,” Harding said.
Tonga Head Coach Toutai Kefu said they would be heading into the 2023 RWC a much better team compared to the one that went into the PNC three weeks ago.
“We are getting better with every game and this is one game that we are focusing on as we know Hong Kong is a quality side, who will be giving it their all as well, both teams are wanting to qualify for the World Cup, so it will be tough,” Kefu said.
Tonga was the only team in the PNC that has yet to qualify for the 2023 RWC. The match will be held at the Stockland Park Stadium, Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia on July 23.