27 Nov 2017

Tongan rugby league team to be recognised by King

4:10 pm on 27 November 2017

Tonga's rugby league team is to be presented with royal honours on their return to the country this week.

Team mates celebrate as Tonga's William Hopoate scores

The 2017 Rugby League World Cup was full of joyous moments for the Tongans Photo: Photosport

Tonga lost a thrilling World Cup semi-final to England on Saturday but made history during the tournament by being the first tier two team to beat a tier one side when they defeated New Zealand.

The team has also attracted the largest crowds at the tournament, with over 30,000 witnessing their match in Auckland at the weekend.

After the weekend's loss, which King Tupou VI watched in person, it was announced that His Majesty wanted to recognise their contribution to sports.

Tonga's King Tupou VI

Tonga's King Tupou VI Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Indira Stewart

The King will invest the players with an award of the Royal Orders in a ceremony on Wednesday at the Royal Palace.

For coach Kristian Woolf and his team, it's the icing on the cake, for what's been a memorable few weeks.

"It's another special thing that these players have been a part of and that we have all been a part of," Woolf said.

"It's a terrific campaign. It's a real honour, just from my discussions with the Tongan players, it's something they are really looking forward to and it's a real honour for them and something they are very, very proud of.

"So, it's going to be a terrific finish to what has been a terrific campaign," he said.

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