Vunipola denies legal issue behind pull out

Tongan Rugby Seven’s coach Manu Vunipola's has denied that his shock decision to withdraw from this week’s Rugby Sevens tournament in Wellington was because of legal action involving his New Zealand ex-wife.

The former ‘Ikale Tahi scrum-half refused to discuss the legal action and said there was no problem with his being in New Zealand.

“I assure you there was no issue with my visa to New Zealand,” Vunopila said.

“I have been to the New Zealand Immigration here and they said my New Zealand permanent residency is still valid.”

Vunipola said he pulled out because of a commitment to set up the Toa-ko- Ma’afu Saracen’s Academy in Tonga.

Tonga Rugby Union’s interim CEO, Fuka Kitekei’aho said the rugby board had approved Vunipola’s withdrawal

Kaniva News has seen a copy of Vunipola’s -email to the board.

In it Vunipola does not give  any clear reason for opting out, except for saying that he had an important  commitment this week.

The former coach said later he had decided to remain in Tonga to work with a consultant from English Saracen Rugby Club.

“His coming was unexpected as he was due to come later on, but I have no choice,” Vunipola said.

He said he had to help his brother Fe’ao – a former Tongan rugby captain and father of current Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola – to work with the consultant on setting up of the academy.

Vunipola will be replaced  as coach for the Rugby Sevens by Taholo ‘Anitoni.

He said he was  happy with ‘Anitoni leading the team in Welington because he was his assistant during last year’s qualifying games.

Tonga will meet Kenya, Samoa and Australia in Wellington

Tongan Rugby fans expressed surprise at Vunipola’s withdrawal as coach because he had been accused of being behind the sacking of Waqa and his assistant, Tevita Tu’ifua, something Vunipola strongly denies.

Speaking in Tongan, Vunipola said: “I heard rumours I was instrumental in trying to dismiss Waqa and Tu’ifua because I wanted the post”

“No, that was wrong.

“Their sacking was based on a board decision and not me.”

Waqa said his contract had been terminated because a few board members had “their own interest” in the position of the Seven’s coach.

The Tongan rugby board compensated Waqa and Tu’ifua, who claimed their dismissal was illegal.

Many Tongan rugby fans who spoke to Kaniva News lashed out at the Tonga Rugby Union, saying it had been ineffective for years.

TRU president ‘EpeliTaione did not respond to our email.

The main points

  • Tongan Rugby Seven’s coach Manu Vunipola has pulled out of the Rugby Sevens tournament in Wellington.
  • Vunipola has denied that his shock decision was made because of legal action taken against him by his ex-wife.
  • He said he pulled out because of a commitment to set up the Toa-ko- Ma’afu Saracen’s Academy in Tonga.
  • Tonga Rugby Union’s interim CEO, Fuka Kitekei’aho said the rugby board had approved Vunipola’s withdrawal.
  • Vunipola will be replaced by Taholo ‘Anitoni for the tournament.
  • Tonga will meet Kenya, Samoa and Australia in Wellington.

The Saracens and Tonga

Toa Saracens RFC has joined the global network of Saracens clubs.

The Tongan team will wear the same playing strip as the English Premiership club and Saracens coaches and community staff will visit Tonga regularly.

According to the London24 news site, Tongans from the age of 14 will be granted educational bursaries and benefit from expert rugby, dietary and conditioning advice.

The English team has a number of Pacific players in its ranks, including Samoan prop James Johnston, Fijian wing Michael Tagicakibau and New Zealand wing Jack Wilson.

For more information:

Tongan side joins the Saracens’ global network


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