- 27 Sep 07, 12:09 AM
Paris - Heard the one about the Tongan player with the pop star name who warmed up for the World Cup with a season in the third division of English rugby?
No? Well read on.
There’s hooker Aleki Lutui and replacement wing Aisea Havili, who both ply their trade with Worcester.
Then you’ve got prop Soane Tonga’uiha, who also earned a crust in the top flight last season before Northampton were relegated, and replacement hooker Ephraim Taukafa, who had two years with Leicester from 2004 to 2006.
And, of course, there is former Sale and Newcastle centre Epi Taione, who left the Sharks under a cloud after receiving an 18-week ban for biting.
But also primed to spring off the bench will be Soane Patita Pat Boone Sioape Havea, to give him his full, magnificent nomenclature.
Havea is, according to the man who coached him last season, “a scrum-half who looks like a tight-head prop”, and arrived at this global jamboree after a year endearing himself to everyone at Stourbridge Rugby Club, in England’s National League Two.
“He is an incredible character,” says Neil Mitchell, the director of rugby at Stourbridge. “I never met anyone like him, he is by far the best and most interesting player I have ever coached.
“He’s as wide as he‘s tall but he’s a tremendous scrum-half, a very committed player and the most energetic person. When he was here he had orange hair and gold teeth – the crowd loved him.”
So what about that name? “We never did get to the bottom of it,” Mitchell said.
If there are any Stourbridge supporters out there who did, or Tongan fans in the know, do get in touch, but I thought the least I could do was try.
Pat Boone, for those of you not up on your early rhythm and blues, is an American crooner who had a string of hits in the late 1950s, when his teen idol status was second only to Elvis Presley, apparently.
He later moved into gospel and country music, although some of you might be familiar with his cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s song “Crazy Train”, the theme tune for the reality show “The Osbournes”.
Ozzy, Sharon and co. used to live next door to Boone, now 73, in Los Angeles incidentally.
Anyway, one presumes his music found its way to Mausanga, the village in Tonga from where Havea hails, although when I asked him about his name, he said he knew nothing of any potential homage to a fifties legend.
“Really? I didn’t know that. It is just my uncle’s name.”
Havea does have a musical side though. Well, he's sung in public on at least one occasion. “Just before he left I was co-erced into singing some stupid karaoke number with him,” Mitchell recalled.
Havea chuckled at the memory. What was the song? “I can’t remember, I was drunk!” he chortled.
So how did he end up in the West Midlands taking on the likes of Wharfedale and Waterloo in front of Stourbridge’s 450-seater main stand at Stourton Park?
Initially he came over to visit his friend Taukafa at Leicester, after a tour with Tonga in the autumn of 2005 that took in Tests with Italy and France.
He used to go and watch the Tigers train as well as their matches, so he should be genned up on at least five players on duty for England on Friday.
“I wanted to play for them, but they wouldn’t put me in the team, so Hessie told me to come to Stourbridge, where he had gone on loan,” he said. “It was wonderful, all the people supported me really well.”
They’d love him to come back, but new regulations concerning amateur players and visa requirements for foreign players in the National Leagues make that unlikely.
Havea is one of 10 children, with his three brothers and six sisters scattered to all parts including the USA and New Zealand.
He doesn’t currently have a club – “my agent is working on it at the moment” – but doesn’t lack for support while Tonga’s stirring deeds continue at this World Cup.
“Man, the people back home are very happy about the way we are playing,” he says, citing the barrage of phone calls and emails that have flooded in to the team’s base near Montpellier.
On Thursday they travel to Paris ahead of the big game, which kicks off at 8am on Saturday morning in Tonga.
So it could be a long day in the Pacific Ocean archipelago if Havea and company turn over the world champions.
They might even raise a glass or two at Stourton Park in honour of their favourite Tongan.
Bryn Palmer is the BBC Sport website’s rugby union editor.