Tonga face Wales 'for love not money'

By Nick WebbBBC Wales Sport
Tonga have not beaten Wales in their eight previous encounters
Tonga have not beaten Wales in their eight previous encounters
Autumn international: Wales v Tonga
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 17 November Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, S4C, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport website and app.

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu says his team will be playing for the love of the game when they face Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

The former back-row, 44, won 60 caps for Australia and lifted the 1999 World Cup in Cardiff with the Wallabies.

But coaching the cash-strapped Tonga national side is a big contrast from his playing days.

"They are playing for the love of it, they don't get much (money) playing for us," Kefu told BBC Sport Wales.

"I commend them because they are putting themselves at risk if they get injuries."

Kefu's squad for the Wales match are spread across clubs in France, England, Wales, New Zealand and Australia.

He is grateful for the presence of those who choose to commit themselves to the red jersey of the 'Ikale Tahi - the Sea Eagles - rather than pursue honours in their adopted countries, such as Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau and England's Vunipola brothers, Billy and Maka.

"They come here to represent their family and our tiny little nation. I wish I could have done that in my playing days," said Kefu, who was born in Tonga but made his international debut for Australia in August 1997.

"They don't earn money when they play for us. Financially they are better off playing for those countries like New Zealand and Australia and we encourage that.

"We try and get those players back who don't make it into the red and white. We just have to keep fighting."

Tonga's scrum coach is New Zealander Daniel Cron, whose father Mike performed the same role for Wales at the 2003 World Cup under Steve Hansen.

Saturday's game at the Principality Stadium will help boost the coffers of the Tonga Rugby Union, as the national side builds towards the 2019 World Cup in Japan where they face England, France, Argentina and the USA in the pool stage.

Tonga have not beaten Wales in their previous eight encounters.

"(Time together) is an issue for tier two nations. We come from all around the world," Cron said.

"We don't have the funding and we heavily rely on World Rugby for these tours and the Welsh (Rugby) Union - games against a tier one nation are gold.

"Only about 10 players in our squad have professional contracts. We have a few who play club rugby in New Zealand, they get paid by the Tonga Rugby Union but only a daily allowance for food.

"A lot of them are taking time off work or making sacrifices from family being away from home.

"We are missing quite a few boys who for whatever circumstances can't make those sacrifices at the moment."

The current Tonga crop have made their mark in a Cardiff restaurant this week though.

"We went to a Brazilian restaurant which was an all you can eat meat place, and I am not sure they knew what hit it," said Cron.

"They definitely did not cut a profit that night with 32 Tongans in there!"

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