By Eleanor Gee
The ‘Ikale Tahi ended its tour of the northern hemisphere with a loss against Romania, 32 – 20, in Bucharest on November 20.
The loss is the fourth on tour for the team, who have been without head coach Toutai Kefu for all four games. Toutai remained in Brisbane, Australia recovering from a serious stabbing incident during a home invasion earlier this year.
The 'Ikale Tahi also lost against Scotland 60-14, England 69-3, and the French Barbarians 42-17.
COVID-19 proved to be challenging for the Tongan team with players and staff coming together from nine countries and living in a COVID-19 bubble to represent the Kingdom on the tour.
Meanwhile, Tonga's World Rugby rankings could be affected. After the loss on the weekend, Romania may move one place ahead of Tonga.
The rankings, last updated on November 15 on the World Rugby website states Tonga is ranked at 15 with 68.57 points while Romania is ranked 16 on 67.06 points.
This year, the ‘Ikale Tahi has had just one win against the Cook Islands, 54-10 in the Rugby World Cup 2023 Qualifier. Prior to that they lost to New Zealand 102 - 0 and Samoa twice 43 -13 and 37 – 15.
Earlier this month, Toutai Kefu said they have been building a solid depth chart "as we approach the qualifiers for RWC2023 in July next year'.
“We play Hong Kong in Tonga and our team will be ready with experience and ability in all positions.”