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Tongans wary

Zanzeer Singh
Thursday, June 12, 2014

IKALE Tahi Tonga is wary of the cards that Flying Fijians coach John McKee will have up his sleeves when the two teams meet at Churchill Park in Lautoka on Saturday for the Pacific Nations Cup.

McKee is no stranger to Tongan rugby having been their technical advisor from 2010-2012.

He was part of their 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign.

Tonga has retained only three players from the World Cup, however coach Manakaetau Otai knows well that McKee's influence has been on the players in the squad.

Otai said this gave McKee a big advantage.

"It is absolutely a huge advantage of having a lot of knowledge about our players," Otai said.

"He has been in the grooming process of many of them. But our focus will be on the game. We have picked the players on merit and they will be punching all the way."

The trio who have been retained from the World Cup are number eight Viliami Ma'afu and wingers William Helu and Fetu'u Vainikolo. Otai has made wholesale changes to the squad that toured Europe last November. Twelve players on that tour are out of the squad.

Otai said he heard about the big support they had here.

"Our preparations are going well," the former Auckland number eight said.

"We need to improve from last week's game against Samoa. There are areas that you have to improve from the first game. Continuity and taking those opportunities is one of them.

"We have to build on our set piece play. I have heard about the big support here and we will not disappoint them."

Tonga and Samoa drew 18-all in Apia.

This will be the 87th meeting between the neighbouring nations since the inaugural test in 1924. Fiji has won 57 times and Tonga 26 with three matches drawn.

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