New head coach for ‘Ikale Tahi

By Iliesa Tora, Senior Sports Journalist, and is republished with permission

Tonga sevens coach Tevita Tu’ifua has been named head coach of the ‘Ikale Tahi for the next four years.

Tevita Tu’ifua Photo: RNZ Pacific/Talei Anderson

The Tonga Rugby Union named Tu’ifua as head coach of their national team along with former Tongan captain Nili Latu as his assistant.

TRU chief executive officer Aisea ‘Aholelei told a media conference in Nuku’alofa on Monday they had received over 20 applicants from around the world, including some from South Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

‘Aholelei said they had worked with World Rugby on the shortlist and appointment of the new coaches.

Tu’ifua was the best choice and Latu as his assistant, he said.

“And I have unwavering faith that these are the men for the job,” he said.

Tu’ifua, who played for both the Tongan sevens and full fifteens teams, has been the coach of the Tongan men’s sevens team for the last 11 years.

“I am honoured to be allowed to coach the ‘Ikale Tahi,” he told the press conference.

“This is going to be a tough job, but I believe that we can do it.”

He played for the ‘Ikale Tahi along with Latu, also a former captain.

Latu was the coach of the Tongan women’s rugby team and helped with Moana Pasifika as well.

“Appreciate the faith entrusted in us,” he said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done and we will work with the Board and the union on how we are going to move things forward.”

Tu’ifua takes over from Toutai Kefu, whose term ended at the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

He and Latu now have four years to prepare the next team for the world event, to be hosted by Australia in 2027.

Their work starts with Test matches against Italy and Spain in June.

Then there is the new-look Pacific Nations Cup series in August and September, involving Fiji, Samoa, Japan, Canada, and the United States of America.

Meanwhile, the Tonga union board will have to decide who will be Tu’ifua’s replacement as the Sevens team coach.

The Sevens team is currently playing in the Rugby Sevens Challenger 2024 series.

They have been pooled with Uganda, Hong Kong China, and Mexico in Pool B of the last round of competition in Munich and Krakow respectively on Mat 18-19.

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