Tonga's UK, Europe rugby tour still on

Steve McMorranAP
Coach Toutai Kefu won't be on tour with Tonga for their northern hemisphere games in coming weeks.
Camera IconCoach Toutai Kefu won't be on tour with Tonga for their northern hemisphere games in coming weeks. Credit: AP

Tonga are planning to go ahead with their scheduled northern hemisphere rugby tour this month despite the recent decision by Samoa to cancel their tour over COVID-19 concerns.

Tonga Rugby Union chief executive Peter Harding said head coach, former Wallabies forward Toutai Kefu, won't tour because he is still recovering from a violent home invasion in August.

Samoa on Wednesday announced they would not tour because strict domestic border policies would not allow locally-based players to return home if they have been to countries with coronavirus outbreaks.

Tonga on Thursday said they believe their tour can proceed despite the problems of travel during the pandemic.

The Ikale Tahi are due to play Scotland in the last week of October and England, the French Barbarians and Romania in November.

Harding said most Tonga players already are based in the northern hemisphere.

Selecting players from Australia and New Zealand would be more difficult because of those nations' border restrictions with a squad likely to be named later this week.

"Samoa's made a very difficult decision," Harding told Radio New Zealand.

"We're not in their building so we can't really comment on why they made the decision but we do understand, intimately understand, the difficulties of putting this tour together.

"Honestly it is such an energy-sapper but we're going to go ahead with ours and that's the decision we've made."

The Samoans were due to play Spain, Uruguay and Romania before meeting a British Barbarians selection at Twickenham.

The Samoa union said in a statement it was not able to "guarantee the safety of any of our players and management whilst on campaign and the current state of emergency measures by the government restricts the return of anyone within six months of contacting the virus.

Chief executive Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai said "this was a major obstacle to keep our borders safe. We do accept the implications and scale of consequences the pandemic can have to our small country with limited resources."

Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua said the decision to cancel was the right one, though it was tough on players, fans and host teams.

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