5 Oct 2011

Sport: 'Ikale Tahi return home to heroes welcome

1:16 pm on 5 October 2011

Despite their exit from the Rugby World Cup the Tongan team has been welcomed home as heroes following their upset victory over France.

The 'Ikale Tahi stunned Les Bleus 19-14 in Wellington at the weekend but were still unable to qualify for the quarter finals.

The bulk of the team arrived home in Nuku'alofa on Monday and the Deputy Chair of the Tonga Rugby Union Authority, Aminiasi Kefu, says the result means this could be the greatest Tongan team ever.

"One of those objectives was to make the quarter finals, or secondly to pre-qualify and get into the top ten. We managed to achieve two and just fell short by five points, in the loss to Canada, in making the quarter finals. Overall it is a fantastic achievement from the players but best of all is just seeing all the country unifying behind the team and celebrating as a country rather than just a rugby team."

Aminiasi Kefu says they're hopeful their performances at the World Cup will see more top tier nations willing to play against them but the IRB has indicated the test schedule for the next few years is already full.