22 Feb 2017

Sport: Welsh rugby fans still plan to visit Tonga

2:03 pm on 22 February 2017

A tour group of Welsh rugby fans still plans to visit Tonga despite the test match between the two countries being moved offshore.

World Rugby confirmed last week the test would not be held in Nuku'alofa because of doubts over the readiness of Teufaiva National Stadium.

Local church using the Teufaiva Stadium which is in need of renovations to host rugby test and Pac Games. Jan 2017

Teufaiva National Stadium January 2017. Photo: Breakthrough Church Tonga

The 'Ikale Tahi haven't played at home since 2009 and head coach Toutai Kefu said the match would now be played in New Zealand, at either Growers Stadium in Pukekohe or North Harbour Stadium.

But the Director of Ultimate Australia, Hugh Downie, said their tour group of about 50 Welsh rugby fans are still planning to visit the Kingdom.

"We're hopping over to Auckland for the Tonga test and then we're going straight up to Tonga, in actual fact, for a few days," he said.

"Because we feel that we want to go there, we want to see the country, we want to meet the people and the Rugby Union up there has been very very inviting, if you like.

"They're very keen to see that we are still going to that country and that's important for us.

"Then after that we go to Fiji because people want to go to Fiji - it was already part of the original tour," he said.

"And then after that we will go to Samoa for the last test [between Manu Samoa and Wales in Apia] and then they head back."

Welsh rugby fans on tour in NZ 2016.

Welsh rugby fans on tour in NZ 2016. Photo: Supplied / Ultimate Australia Limited

Downie said much of the tour group are repeat clients, who have travelled to the likes of Australia and New Zealand to watch Wales play but this trip is different.

"It's a once in a lifetime trip: they won't normally schedule something into Samoa or Tonga especially so I think it's important for them," he said.

"These are people that want rugby and a holiday whereas probably British Lions is more rugby."

"It's the best excuse to travel such a long distance because they want to experience the friendliness of the people, they want to experience the beauty - it's so different to what they normally see," said Downie.

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