Rugby – Team News:Former All Black and current Tonga head coach Isitolo Maka has named his team to take on Churchill Cup winners Ireland 'A' at Ravenhill tomorrow night (7pm).
The Tongan management team have been boosted by the presence of Brian Melrose with the former Australia under-20 and sevens coach brought in as Maka’s assistant three weeks ago.
“I was just appointed to the squad three weeks ago, and this time in Belfast has been the first opportunity I have had to work with the team. It has been a busy few days with a lot of constructive work being done on the pitch,” said Melrose, who was brought in to help put attack and defence structures in place within the back division.
“The team as a whole are a big physical side, with powerful ball carriers and a very strong defence. It is difficult to pinpoint any individual player at the minute, but from my initial work with the squad, the backrow of Vahafolau, Fono and Filo, look to be a useful unit and work well together.
“The skipper, secondrow Kelelolio Paino Hehea, is a very solid and powerful player. In the backs the New Zealand born outhalf Kurt Morath has a lot of talent.
"Vaka, the inside centre, is a big ball carrying runner. The fullback Filmone Lilo and right winger Alipate Fatafehi are both real prospects for Tonga.
“The game of Friday night will be a massive challenge. Irish rugby is on a high and the provincial teams are all playing well. We are expecting a very tough game but are really looking forward to the experience,” added Melrose.
The Tongans face Ireland ‘A’ as part of their Autumn International Tour where they will also take on Scotland ‘A’ and Portugal. Tonga are currently ranked 15th in the world.
TONGA: Toma Toke, Semisi Telefoni, Mosese Moala, Kelekolio Paino Hehea, Emosi Kauhenga, Seti Filo, Uelenitoni Fono, Samiu Vahafolau, Vungakoto Filimone Lilo, Latu Nagashima Alipate Fatafehi, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Joseph Vaka, Poakikaifano Vakaloa, Kurt Morath, Kilifi Fangupo.
Replacements: Willam Mosaati Hafu, Po'alo'I Taula, Penisimani Fakalelu, Lisiate Faaoso, Rodney Mahe, Mahe Fangupo, Raymond Pierre Hola, Manu 'Ahota'e'iloa
IRELAND A: Gavin Duffy (Galwegians, Connacht); Shane Horgan (Boyne, Leinster, capt), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins, Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere, Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena, Ulster); Ian Humphreys (Ballymena, Ulster), Peter Stringer (Shannon, Munster); Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians, Connacht), AN Other, Mike Ross (Clontarf, Leinster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne, Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon, Munster), Sean O'Brien (Clontarf, Leinster), Neil Best (Northampton Saints), Chris Henry (Ballymena, Ulster).
Replacements: Denis Fogarty (Cork Constitution, Munster), Bryan Young (Ballymena, Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena, Ulster), Kevin McLaughlin (UCD, Leinster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena, Ulster), Ian Keatley (Galwegians, Connacht), Johne Murphy (Leicester Tigers).