The Australian Defence Force (ADF) rugby union players, men and women, will take on His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) at Tupou College, Toloa, on Saturday, 11 May.
The 15-a-side test matches are open to the public and will be held after lunch with the women kicking off at 2:00pm and the men kicking off at 2.30pm. The ADF women’s team will take on a mixed HMAF and local women’s rugby club team due to a lack of women rugby players at the HMAF to make a full side. The ADF teams are coached by Lieutenant Isikeli (Keli) Fukofuka, who is of Tongan descent.
In the lead up to Saturday’s games, Australian Army Rugby Union Major, Ed Keating, told Matangi Tonga both the ADF and HMAF had a 7s rugby competition today at Taliai Military Camp.
“Some really good rugby today and a really good example of Tonga-Australia military and sports relationships."
"Cmdr Lino of HMAF did a superb job of organising the 7's rugby competition at Taliai Military Camp at short notice. The ground was superb; the Royal Tonga Marines should be proud of the work they did,” he said.
Ten games were played, five men’s and five women’s games with ADF winning the majority of games. HMAF men won one game and HMAF women won two games.
Keating said they are enjoying their time in Tonga and are looking forward to being treated to a Tongan feast tonight.
A few puaka
"The Marines chef is cooking a few pigs and other Tongan specialities. This will be a really good experience for the Australian players who have never experienced Tongan hospitality and cooking at its absolute finest. We have all been humbled, once again, by the huge generosity of the people of the Kingdom."
Keating said the ADF team arrived in Tonga on Monday night and will be doing a lot of training, interaction, and relationship building with HMAF up until Friday before the test match on Saturday.
“There are 65 of us here in Tonga, and that includes the men’s team and the women’s team.”
ADF’s Lieutenant Colonel 'Alamoti Lavaki said one of the reasons they are here is because of the Australian Government’s Pacific Engagement program.
And another is to prepare for the 2019 International Defence Rugby Competition.
“So, there’s a World Cup for all the Defence Forces in the world and Fiji and Tonga are part of it. It will be [held] in September in Japan before the actual [Rugby Union] World Cup,” he said.
The ADF teams will return to Australia next Tuesday.