1 Jul 2017

Sport: Test rugby returns to Tonga

8:15 am on 1 July 2017

Test rugby returns to Tonga this weekend after an eight year absence with the 'Ikale Tahi hosting Samoa in Nuku'alofa.

Teufaiva Stadium was recently reopened, following long-awaited upgrades to the on-field drainage and surrounding facilities.

View from the main stand at Teufaiva

View from the main stand at Teufaiva Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

Flanker Nili Latu and right wing David Halaifonua were a part of the last Tongan team to play at the ground in 2009.

But it will be an all-new experience for Highlanders prop Siua Halanukonuka.

"Everything is perfect, just can't wait until Saturday...it's a privilege, first time playing in Teufaiva so I'm pretty excited for the opportunity we're getting on Saturday."

Tonga fullback David Halaifonua holds off the Welsh defence.

David Halaifonua, playing here against Wales in June, made his test debut when Tonga last played at Teufaiva Stadium eight years ago. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Fellow prop Ben Tameifuna is likely to get gametime off the bench and, after checking out the field conditions, he's predicting a high-octane affair.

"They've come off a couple of big tests as well and we're expecting the same kind of style as us, physical."

"We've been to Teufaiva, it's nice and solid and dry and I think it's going to be a bit of running rugby, so I think you're going to see a lot of tired boys walking around or trying along the field but I think we're going to expect a physical battle up front firstly and whoever's got the most in the tank in the 60th/70th minute I think is going to take it out,"

The equation is simple for Manu Samoa this afternoon: beat Tonga and they will seal their place at the 2019 World Cup.

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are all vying for two automatic qualifying spots, with last year's Pacific Nations Cup results to be combined with this years event.

The Manu prevailed 30-10 when the teams played in Apia last year but head coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia said it would be a much tougher affair away from home.

"And we've got to make sure that we don't get caught up with the emotion of the whole event and focus on the detail of what the performance is going to look like."

"Really for us that's very important so yeah big game, big test , every test is very very tough and playing our first test in Tonga after many years it's going to be a huge one for the Tongans as well. Certainly it's going to be a big occasion but we need to stay focused on the main things."

Manu Samoa coach Alama Ieremia

Manu Samoa coach Alama Ieremia Photo: Photosport

Samoa were thrashed by the All Blacks two weeks ago and suffered a narrow defeat against Wales in Apia.

But Ieremia said those tests were all about building momentum and this was where it really counts.

"And we're under no illusions - obviously Tonga are in the same boat so it's going to be a pretty good test match and we've just got to make sure that we front..."

"It's important that we build on the positive stuff that came out of those test matches and for our area we started well in both test matches and finishing is what we need to focus on," he said.

The match kicks off at three o'clock local time.