World Cup player profiles: Tonga

Date published: September 11 2015

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Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we take a look at all of the players set to feature in England. Next up, Tonga.

Forwards: Tevita Mailau, Alisona Taumalolo, Soane Tonga'uiha, Halani Aulika, Sila Puafisi, Elvis Taione, Paula Ngauamo, Aleki Lutui, Tukulua Lokotui, Joeseph Tiuneau, Steve Mafi, Opeti Fonua, Hala T-Pole, Nili Latu, Jack Ram, Viliami Ma'afu, Sione Kalamafoni, Uili Kolo'ofai.

Backs: Sonatane Takulua, Samisoni Fisilau, Sosefo Ma'ake, Kurt Morath, Latiume Fosita, Sione Piukala, Siale Piutau, Viliami Tahitu'a, Fetu'u Vainikolo, Telusa Veainu, Tevita Halaifonua, William Helu, Vungakoto Lilo.


HALANI AULIKA

Prop    1.85m    130kg    31.08.1983

Currently playing in the English Premiership for London Irish, Aulika was born in Tonga but emigrated to New Zealand when he was 17. He was unsuccessful in his bid to make the Auckland ITM Cup side but kickstarted his career with a move to Otago in 2010. In ten matches he scored an impressive five tries for the side during the tournament, building up his reputation as a try-scoring threat. His impressive form resulted in a call-up for Tonga, who he played for during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Aulika’s good form for Otago also contributed in him winning a Super Rugby contract for the Highlanders, but he only made one appearance off the bench in the 2011 season. In 2012 he signed his first contract with London Irish and during the 2012/2013 season surprised many by continuing his try-scoring streak, finishing the campaign with six to his name, the most of any forward in the league. After playing at the World Cup and then for Tonga in 2012, Aulika was absent from Test rugby for three years until his return in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup, where he started all three matches.


SAMISONI FISILAU

Scrum-half    1.88m    105kg    29.11.1987

Fisilau has mostly been New Zealand bound since the start of his career playing provincial rugby for Counties Manukau Northland and Bay of Plenty. In 2013 he joined the Hurricanes but hardly featured, which saw him join England club Jersey in 2015. Fisilau made his Test bow for Tonga during the 2010 Pacific Nations Cup, and went on to represent them at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.


OPETI FONUA

Loose forward    1.98m    135kg    26.05.1986

A monster loose forward, Fonua currently plays for Leicester Tigers. Fonua played most of his rugby abroad representing France clubs, SU Agen – for whom he earned a whopping 145 caps and scoring 44 tries – FC Auch and Bayonne. He made his Test bow for Tonga during the 2009 Pacific Nations Cup. In 2014 Fonua had a short spell at London Welsh before joining Leicester Tigers in 2015.


LATIUME FOSITA

Fly-half    1.88m    97kg    25.07.1992

Fosita currently plays rugby in New Zealand for Northland in the ITM Cup. The 23-year-old made a surprise move to the west in 2013 joining South African varsity team, Wits who competes in the Varsity Cup. After playing only two games in the competition he decided to move back to New Zealand, linking up with Northland ahead of the 2013 ITM Cup. Fosita made only one appearance during the competition, however 2014 was more faithful as Fosita made 10 appearances as Northland improved showing a lot more promise. Fosita made his Test debut for Tonga in 2013 coming off the bench against Romania.


TEVITA HALAIFOUNA

Wing/Full-back     1.88m    104kg    05.07.1987

Halaifonua currently plays in England for Gloucester. The 28-year-old speedster broke onto the international scene in 2009, but struggled to maintain his place within the team. In 2013 Halaifonua had a short spell in Australia playing club rugby for Warringah before heading to France, joining US Bergerac in 2014. That same year he moved to Sri-Lankan club, Kandy joining fellow Tongan's Hale T-Pole and Paula Kaho, before officially signing with Gloucester at the end of the year.


WILLIAM HELU

Wing    1.91m    102kg    19.04.1986

Helu started out playing for French club FC Grenoble in 2009. The speedster joined Italian team, Rugby Roma Olimpic in another one-year stint in 2010, which resulted in his Test debut for Tonga that same year. The 29 year-old represented Tonga at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but only featured once. After the World Cup he had spells at Bristol, Manly and Wasps before joining Edinburgh in 2015. Helu's experience playing rugby in the northern hemisphere should benefit Fiji at this year's showcase.


SIONE KALAMAFONI

Loose-forward    1.91kg    121kg    18.05.1988

Kalamafoni currently plays for English club Gloucester, for whom he has earned over 70 caps since joining them in 2012. The loose forward had a two-year stint at Nottingham, earning 33 caps and scoring 11 tries before joining Gloucester. Kalamafoni made his Test bow for Tonga shortly after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and went on to represent them at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, starting in three of their pool matches. His experience playing in the northern hemisphere will be invaluable for them at this year's Rugby World Cup.


UILI KOLOOFAI

Lock    1.98m    118kg    29.09.1982

New Zealand born Kolo'ofa'i started out playing for Otago on a five-year stint from 2004. The towering lock produced solid performances for Otago in the ITM Cup, which resulted in a move abroad joining Italian club, Crociati Parma on a one-year stint from 2010. Kolo'ofa'i joined Cavalieri Prato in 2011 on another one-year stint before joining French club, Colomiers in 2012 producing staggering performances, which resulted in his Test bow for Tonga in 2013. Kolo'ofa'i joined his current team, the Newcastle Falcons in 2014.


NILI LATU

Loose forward    1.82m    101kg    19.02.1982

Latu started out playing for New Zealand's Bay of Plenty in a three-year stint from 2003, which resulted in his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs in 2005. A lack of game-time at Bay of Plenty saw him join NEC Green Rockets in the Japanese Top League in 2007. His eight years at the club saw him earn 76 caps and score 32 tries. The Tongan stalwart made his Test debut in 2006 and went on to represent them at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, starting in all four of their pool matches.


VUNGAKOTO LILO

Wing/Full-back     1.93m    110kg    28.02.1983

Lilo currently plays for French team, Tarbes in the Pro D2. The 32 year-old broke onto the scene in 2007 while representing English team, the Cornish Pirates, which resulted in his Test debut for Fiji that same year. He went on to represent Fiji at the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups. After a short spell at Bristol, Lilo joined French team Bordeaux in 2010 on a two-year stint, earning 61 caps and scoring 23 tries. Lilo joined Tarbes in 2012.


TUKULUA LOKOTUI

Lock/Flanker    1.96m    115kg    31.12.1979

Lokotui currently plays his club rugby in France with Pro D2 side Beziers – his sixth club since starting his career back in 2001 with Hawke’s Bay. Lokotui spent six years with the Magpies before he first moved to France to join Stade Français in 2008. Lokotui’s short stint in Paris ended when he moved to Japan to join Kintetsy Liners, helping the side win promotion to the Top League. He returned to New Zealand to play for Wellington Lions in 2012 before moving to Gloucester. After one season Lokotui headed to Beziers. With Tonga, Lokotui made his debut in 2001 but didn’t play for Tonga for nearly a decade until his second cap in July 2011 against Fiji. He went on to play in the 2011 Rugby World Cup and has been a regular member of the side since, including the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.


 ALEKI LUTUI

Hooker    1.83m    110kg    01.07.1978

Lutui will be one of the oldest players at the Rugby World Cup after a lengthy professional career playing in both Super Rugby and in Europe. Lutui scored a try on his Test debut when he came off the bench against Georgia back in 1999. His first start came two games later against Samoa. Lutui missed the 2003 Rugby World Cup but featured in the 2007 and 2011 tournaments. Lutui didn’t play for Tonga for three years until he returned to the side in November 2014. He also made seven appearances for the Pacific Islanders. His club career began with the Chiefs in Super Rugby, spending three years there from 2003 to 2006, along with Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup, before joining Worcester Warriors in England. Lutui made 168 appearances for Worcester from 2006 to 2013, scoring 23 tries, before a season with Edinburgh in Scotland. He returned to the Premiership with Worcester in 2014.


 STEVE MAFI

Flanker    1.98m    112kg    09.12.1989

One of the most exciting young forwards out of Tongan rugby in recent years, Mafi was born in Australia. A former Australia Schoolboys international, Mafi was on the radar of the Waratahs before moving to England where he joined Premiership club Leicester Tigers. Mari made his debut for the club in 2010 and spent four successful years with the Premiership giants, winning the league title during his time there. In total Mafi made 81 appearances, scoring 11 tries. Mafi returned to Australia in 2014 before joining Super Rugby franchise the Western Force, playing a major role for the side during the 2015 season. With Tonga, Mafi made his debut for the side in June 2010 against Samoa. Mafi didn’t feature at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, returning to international action in June 2012. He returned to the side in 2015 after only one appearance in three years and has been used at lock and flanker.


 TEVITA MAILAU

Prop    1.85m    115kg    25.04.1985

Mailau was born in Sydney but attended Wesley College in Auckland, the alma mater of a number of famous players including Jonah Lomu, Charles Piutau, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Stephen Donald. Mailau played in the ITM Cup for Northland and Auckland, playing for the latter between 2008 to 2012. Mailau made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in 2009 and made 38 appearances for the Super Rugby franchise up until 2012, scoring two tries, before he headed to France to join Stade Montois for who he still plays. Mailau’s first cap for Tonga came as a replacement in June 2012 against Samoa, making his first start a few days later against Japan. He has been a regular player for Tonga ever since, featuring against Fiji, Canada and Japan in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.


 VILIAMI MAAFU

Loose forward    1.86m    100kg    09.03.1982

Ma’afu started out playing for New Zealand's North Harbour in the ITM Cup in a three-year stin from 2006. In 2010 he joined Japanese side Mitsubishi Dynaboars after his Super Rugby season at the Blues, which resulted in his Test debut for Tonga during the 2011 Pacific Nations Cup. The loose forward went on to represent them at the 2011 Rugby World Cup starting in three of their pool matches. Ma’afu joined French club Oyonnax in 2013.


 SOSEFO MAAKE

Scrum-half    1.73m    77kg    15.09.1991

Ma’ake is one of the few Tongan based players. The inexperienced scrum-half made his Test bow for Tonga of the bench during the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup. A nippy operator around the fringes of the ruck, Ma’ake should be a brilliant prospect for the future


 KURT MORATH

Fly-half    1.80m    90kg     13.11.1984

The New Zealand-born, Morath currently plays for French team Biarritz in the Pro D2. In 2005 he was selected for New Zealand's U21 extended squad alongside All Black scrum-half Andy Ellis. Morath had a short spell for Taranaki playing in the ITM Cup in 2006-2007. The Fly-half made his Test bow for Tonga in 2009 and went on to represent them at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, starting in all four of their pool matches. Morath's experience in this year's showcase should be invaluable for Tonga as he will bring ease amongst the inexperienced backs.


PAULA NGAUAMO

Hooker    1.83m    117kg    19.02.1986

Ngauamo plays in France for Stade Montois, having signed for the Top 14 club on a two-year-deal ahead of the 2015/2016 season from Oyonnax. Ngauamo’s senior career began playing for ITM Cup side Canterbury in 2011 before he moved to Europe, featuring in 20 games for Oyonnax during the 2014/2015 campaign and scoring one try. The hooker then made his Test debut during the 2014 Pacific Nations Cup, making two appearances as a replacement during the competition. Despite not being selected for the tournament the following year he was then picked in Tonga’s squad for the Rugby World Cup.


SIONE PIUKALA

Centre    1.83m    105kg    08.06.1985

Piukala currently plays club rugby for French club, USA Perpignan. The 30-year-old made his Test debut for Tonga in 2012, and has since been a regular campaigner. Piukala joined USA Perpignan in 2012.


SIALE PIUTAU

Centre/Wing    1.85m    97kg    13.10.1985

The New Zealand-born, Piutau currently plays for Yamaha Jubilo in the Japanese Top League. The 29-year-old was first noticed while representing the Steelers during the 2006 Air New Zealand Cup. He represented the Steelers for five-years, lining up next to former All Blacks centre Tana Umaga in the midfield, earning 50 caps and winning the 2010 Counties Manukau Player of the Year. He made his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs in 2010, but a lack of game time saw him join the Highlanders the following year, earning 19 caps. Piutau made his Test debut for Tonga in 2011 and went on to represent them at the Rugby World Cup that same year, starting all four of their pool matches.


SILA PUAFISI

Prop    1.85m    120kg    15.04.1988

Puafisi first achieved recognition in the 2013 ITM Cup when he was part of the successful Tasman Makos side in the Championship, when they defeated Hawke’s Bay by a single point in the final 26-25. As a result Puafisi came to the attention of English Premiership club Gloucester, making the move north to Kingsholm. Following his arrival Puafisi was a regular in the Cherry and Whites side. His international debut came back in 2011 against Japan in Suva, featuring against Samoa a week later but missing out on the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Puafisi didn’t win another start until November 2013 against Wales. He was a regular in 2014 for Tonga in their June and November Tests before appearing off the bench in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.


JACK RAM

Loose forward     1.91m    98kg    14.01.1987

The Australian-born Ram represented Tonga at youth level before making his debut for Tonga's Sevens side in 2009. Ram moved to New Zealand in 2012 and played for Northland in the ITM Cup, but was out of action for their 2013 season due to a knee injury. He bounced back in 2014 producing staggering performances for Northland, which resulted in his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in 2015. Ram made his Test bow for Tonga during the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.


HALE T-POLE

Flanker/Lock    1.93m    101kg    30.04.1979

Tongan stalwart, Hale T-Pole started out playing provincial rugby in New Zealand for Otago in 1999. T-Pole joined Southland the year after earning 60 caps and scoring 16 tries, which resulted in his Super Rugby debut for the Highlanders in 2004. T-Pole made his Test bow in 2006 for Tonga and went on to represent them at the 2007 Rugby World Cup starting in three of their four pool matches. In 2007 he joined Ospreys and played for them during their Celtic League season. In 2008 T-Pole headed to Japan joining Suntory Sungoliath, and spent two seasons at the club before joining Ricoh Black Rams for their 2010/11 season. T-Pole returned to New Zealand's Southland for whom he has been playing since.


VILIAMI TAHITUA

Centre    1.83m    91kg    02.10.1991

Tahitu’a currently plies his trade in New Zealand for Northland. The elusive inside centre joined Northland in 2013 and has since been a regular campaigner for them in the ITM Cup. Tahitu’a made his Test bow during the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup against Canada.


ELVIS TAIONE

Hooker    1.80m    112kg    25.05.1983

A hooker for Exeter Chiefs in the English Premiership, Taione first played his senior rugby in the southern hemisphere in Super Rugby. Taione appeared for the Waratahs in the 2011 season before moving to the Western Force in Perth, where he made a total of six appearances in 2012. Taione then headed to England to join Championship side Jersey where his impressive season in 2013/2014 caught the attention of the Chiefs who he signed for at the end of that season. While he was still at the Force, Taione made his international debut in November 2012 against Italy. Taione has been a regular in the side since and started all of his country’s games in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.


SONATANE TAKULUA

Scrum-half    1.78m    92kg    01.11.1991

Former Tonga sevens player Takulua moved to New Zealand in 2003 and as a result represented Northland for three years from 2012. The nippy scrum-half represented Tonga's sevens team in 2011. He was signed by the Blues on a development contract in 2014, but didn't feature once. Takulua made his Test bow in 2014 and has since been a regular campaigner.


ALISONA TAUMALOLO

Prop     1.85m    110kg    13.11.1981

Taumalolo went to school in Tonga but emigrated to New Zealand in 2001. He made his ITM Cup debut for Hawke’s Bay in 2005 and spent six years playing for the side, making 45 appearances and scoring 12 tries. Taumalolo enjoyed great success with the Chiefs, making his debut in 2009. A constant try-scoring threat, Taumalolo scored his first try in his second game for the side against the Waratahs. He spent four years with the Chiefs, bowing out by helping the side win their first Super Rugby title in 2012 and finishing with nine tries to his name at the end of the 2012 season. Taumalolo then joined Perpignan in France before moving to Racing 92 in 2014. He played in all of Tonga’s matches at the 2011 Rugby World Cup having made his debut in July that year, when he scored against Fiji.


SOANE TONGAUIHA

Prop    1.91m    131kg    21.01.1982

Tonga'uiha rose to fame in English rugby with Northampton Saints, where he played between 2006 and 2013 and made over 200 appearances for the club scoring 17 tries. Whilst playing at Franklin’s Gardens he was given the ironic nickname of ‘Tiny’. Tonga'uiha started his career with Auckland in New Zealand, but after failing to win a Super Rugby contract moved to England to join Bedford Blues. He played for the Championship side between 2004 to 2006 before signing with Northampton. Tonga'uiha signed a contract with Saracens before changing his mind and staying with Saints until 2013, when he joined Racing 92. He then moved to Oyonnax for the 2014/2015 season. Tongauiha’s Test debut came in 2004 and he played for Tonga at the 2007 Rugby World Cup before a four-year gap in his international career. He returned for the 2011 tournament and in 2015 made his first appearance for nearly three years against the USA.


JOE TUINEAU

Lock    2.03m    121kg    18.08.1981

Tuineau was born in Fiji and grew up in New Zealand, before opting to try and pursue a career in American Football. He returned to rugby in 2008 at the age of 26 and played for Southland in the ITM Cup, winning a call-up for the Highlanders Super Rugby squad who he appeared for in 2010 and 2011. From there he moved to France, first linking up with Top 14 side Montpellier before moving to Aix-en-Provence. Tuineau headed to Lyon in 2013 and helped the club win promotion to the Top 14 in his first season. His international debut came in July 2011 against Fiji, with Tuineau going on to play at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He has featured regularly since then for Tonga, starting twice for the side in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.


FETUU VAINIKOLO

Wing    1.82m    101kg    30.01.1985

Vainikolo started out playing for New Zealand side Northland in 2007 in a two-year stint. The speedster had a brilliant debut for them in the Air New Zealand Cup, scoring five tries in just 10 matches, earning  himself a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders. Vainikolo made his Super Rugby debut for the Highlanders in 2008 and earned 37 caps in a two-year stint. He then headed abroad joining Ireland's Connacht in 2011 for two years before joining current team Exeter Chiefs in 2013. He made his Test debut for Tonga in 2011 and represented them in the Rugby World Cup that same year.


TELUSA VEAINU

Wing    1.80m    117kg    26.12.1990

Veainu currently plays in the ITM Cup for Hawke's Bay and Super Rugby for the Rebels. The former St Andrew's College student represented Canterbury in 2010, which resulted in his inclusion in the New Zealand U/20  The 24-year-old speedster made his Super Rugby debut in 2011 for the Highlanders. He then joined the Crusaders in 2013, but a lack of game time saw him head abroad joining Australian team the Rebels. Since he made his Super Rugby debut he has been struggling with an ankle injury that restricted him to only 16 Super Rugby games in his four years playing in the competition. He made his Test bow for Tonga during the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.

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