SPORTS OF TONGA

Tags

Rugby in Tonga
Rugby union is the national sport in Tonga, and the national team ('Ikale Tahi or Sea Eagles) has performed quite well on the international stage. Although in recent years the national team has not performed as well as neighboring Samoa and Fiji, Tonga has competed in five Rugby World Cups, the first being in 1987. The 2007 Rugby World Cup was its most successful to date, with Tonga winning both of its first two matches, against the USA 25–15 and Samoa 19–15; and came very close to upsetting the eventual winners of the 2007 tournament, the South African Springboks, losing 30–25 in the end. They then lost to England 36–20 in their last pool game to end their hopes of making the knockout stages but were by no means disgraced. In fact, by picking up third place in their pool games behind South Africa and England, Tonga has since been rewarded with automatic qualification for the 2011 Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand.
Its best result prior to 2007 was in 1995 when they won one game beating Ivory Coast 29–11, and 1999 when they won one game beating Italy 28–25 (although with only 14 men they lost heavily to England, 10–101). Tonga performs the "Sipi Tau" (war dance) before its matches. Tonga used to compete in the Pacific Tri-Nations against Samoa and Fiji which has now been replaced by the IRB Pacific 6 Nations involving as well Japan, the second string All Blacks (Junior All Blacks) and Wallabies (Australia A) although from 2008 the Junior All Blacks would be replaced by the Maori All Blacks. At club level, there are the Datec Cup Provincial Championship and the Pacific Rugby Cup. Rugby union is governed by the Tonga Rugby Football Union, which is also a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance. Tonga contributes to the Pacific Islanders rugby union team. Jonah Lomu, Viliami (William) 'Ofahengaue and George Smith, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau are all of Tongan descent. Rugby is popular in the nation's schools and students from schools such as Tonga College, Tupou College are regularly offered scholarships from New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Rugby league has also gained some success in Tonga. In the 2008 Rugby League World Cup Tonga recorded wins against Ireland and Scotland. In addition to the success of the national team, many players of Tongan descent make it big in the Australian National Rugby League competition. These include Willie Mason, Brent Kite, Willie Tonga, Anthony Tupou, Antonio Kaufusi, Israel Folau, Taniela Tuiaki, Michael Jennings, Feleti Mateo, Fetuli Talanoa, to name but a few. Subsequently, some Tongan Rugby League players have established successful careers in the British Super League.

Tongan Boxer Paea Wolfgram won the silver medal in the Super Heavyweight division (>91 kg) at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. He is among one of the very few Polynesians and Pacific Islanders to win an Olympic medal, one other notable person to be Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku (a.k.a. Duke Kahanamoku), a native Hawaiian. Tongan women are known for being skillful jugglers.

A number of US citizens of Tongan descent have made successful careers in American football. Euless' Trinity High School, the Texas state champion football team in 2007 and #1 ranked team nationally in 2008, has several Tongan players. Haloti Ngata is a professional football player in the NFL. Ngata is a defensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens. Vai Sikahema, a native of Tonga, is a former NFL running back/kick returner, who now is a sportscaster in Philadelphia.[33] Ma'ake Kemoeatu, also born in Tonga, plays as a defensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers. His brother Chris Kemoeatu plays as an offensive guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers.