This article was originally published by Staff and reproduced with permission
Controversial former Walabi Israel Folau and former all-black Malakai Fekitoa and Celsi (Charles) Piutau have been named in Tonga’s national rugby squad for the first time.
Former internationals have strengthened the Ikal Tahi team with recent changes to the rules of World Rugby qualification.
Folau ended his Rugby Australia deal in 2019 due to multiple gay social media posts but before that he had expressed a desire to represent Tonga.
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Fekitoa played 24 Tests for the All Blacks between 2014 and 2017 before switching to the Northern Hemisphere to play for Toulon, then Wasps and now Munster.
Peutau played 17 Tests for the All Blacks and returned to New Zealand rugby at just 23 years old.
Follau was a NRL teenager who played for Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Broncos, Queensland and Australia before changing the second dramatic code to play for Wartas in 2013. AFL, playing for the Greater Western Sydney Giants in their new year.
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He has played 73 Tests for the Wallabies but his religious beliefs have encouraged him to post face-to-face gay posts on social media.
The controversy first started in 2018 and then escalated in April 2019 as Foulau continued to post on social media, causing massive crime for the LGBT community and angering Wallabis teammates, rugby Australian staff and sponsors, despite warnings that he was in danger. His contract is broken.
Halfback Augustine Pulu, who played two Tests for the All Blacks in 2014, is also on the star-studded backline.
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Super Rugby Club Moana Pacifica has a strong squad with Tima Finganuku, Solomon Kata, William Haveli and Fine Inisi in their representation.
Tonga coach Totai Kefu has announced a 31-member squad for the Pacific Nations Cup and 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers.
The simplification of world rugby qualification criteria has had a dramatic impact on the Tonga squad. During last year’s New Zealand tour, Kefu was forced to ring around the club to find enough players to fill his squad after MIQ and injury problems.
Tonga will play on the international stage for the first time since the volcanic eruption in January and the ensuing tsunami.
Fiji is set to host the Pacific Nations Cup tournament in Samoa, Tonga and Australia from July 2-16.
Hooker: Samuel Molly, Siwa Mile, J. Phonocalfi
Loosehead Props: Siegfried Fisci’ihoi, Tau Kolomatangi, David Lolohia
Tighthead Props: Siate Tokolahi, Ben Tameifuna, Archbishop
Back row: Tangino Halaifunua, William Tawlani, Lotu Inisi, Solomon Funaki, Sione Tuipulotu
Lock: Samuella Lucy, Halaleva Fifita, Veicoso Poloniati
Halfbacks: Sonate Takulua, Augustine Pulu, Manu Pia
Five-eighth: William Haveli, James Five
Center: Malakai Fekitoa, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Fetuli Paea, Fine Inisi
Outer back: Solomon Kata, Celsi Piutau, Tima Fingaanuku, Israel Folau, Angelo Tuitabhuki
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