10 Mar 2011

Former Tonga captain optimistic about team's progress

12:04 pm on 10 March 2011

The former Tonga captain, Inoke Afeaki, was a keen observer on Wednesday as the national A team were beaten 41-10 by the Hurricanes Development side in the latest round of the Pacific Rugby Cup.

Afeaki retired from international rugby after the 2007 World Cup and since hanging up his boots in December he's resettled in Wellington, where he's working as a club coaching co-ordinator.

After surveying the next generation of Tongan players last night Afeaki admits he's more than happy standing on the other side of the rope.

"Yeah the contact was huge tonight. I mean, just the countries and their coaching systems is really evident out there tonight. Tonga are pretty limited in what they need but given opportunities like this tonight it just closes the gap. They learn a lot from playing teams in New Zealand because the skill level and the refinement of players in New Zealand is pretty exceptional - it's the best in the world."

Inoke Afeaki says he's confident Tonga can be a handful at the world cup later this year, despite being drawn alongside hosts New Zealand and France in their pool.