23 May 2014

Sport: Chance for fringe players to stake 'Ikale Tahi claim

12:22 pm on 23 May 2014

Tonga rugby coach Mana Otai says the June international window is an opportunity for some new faces to make their case to be a part of next year's World Cup squad.

Two new caps have been included for the Pacific Nations Cup tests against Samoa and Fiji, and the one-off international against the Pacific Barbarians.

Former New Zealand Under 20s hooker Paula Ngauamo and fullback Otulea Katoa have both been rewarded for their exploits with Tonga A in the Pacific Rugby Cup.

Mana Otai says a number of front-line players were ruled out with injury, including Lua Lokotui, Joe Tu'ineau and Sione Kalamafoni, while Perpignan prop Sona Taumalolo is in the World XV team and halfback Taniela Moa has been overlooked.

Mana Otai says that gives other players a chance to impress.

"Every six months we come together and try and put together a team in three days - that's our reality - so it's about trying and putting the team together with slightly different combinations this time and we almost have to start from square one again. Our set pieces sort of troubled us in the last outing so we're trying to put some more work into that and obviously we want to win these two games: it helps us with our ranking, it helps us building towards our World Cup, you know it helps morale".