Tonga: Superstar trio Israel Folau, Malakai Fekitoa and Charles Piutau to miss Rugby World Cup qualifier

Dylan Coetzee

Newly converted Tongan stars Israel Folau, Malakai Feketoa and Charles Piutau have all been left out by Toutai Kefu for their crunch qualifier against Hong Kong at the Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday.

The encounter is the Asia/Pacific 1 play-off for a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The winners will join pool B with world champions South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Romania.

Kefu could not use his star players as Folau is sidelined with a hamstring injury, Fekitoa with a calf concern and Piutau, who only committed to two Pacific Nations clashes.

Without stars

The tactician has made four changes from the team used in the final round of the Pacific Nations Cup that sees Telusa Veainu come in for ‘Otumaka Mausia at full-back to link up with Tima Fainga’anuku and Anzelo Tuitavuki in the back three.

Fetuli Paea and Afusipa Taumoepeau maintain their partnership in the midfield whilst fly-half William Havili pairs with Sonatane Takulua in a new-look half-back pairing.

Sione Havili starts at number eight alongside Solomone Funaki and Tanginoa Halaifonua in the loose trio, with the unchanged second-row pairing of captain Halaleva Fifita and Sam Lousi maintained from the last clash.

There are two changes in the front-row: prop Sigfried Fisi’ihoi and hooker Siua Maile elevated to the starting line-up, joining Ben Tameifuna in the engine room.

Samiuela Moli, David Lolohea and Siate Tokolahi make up Kefu’s front-row replacements, with Semisi Paea and Lopeti Timani as the remaining forwards substitutes.

Manu Paea, James Haiva and Mausia are backline options on the bench for the qualifier.

Tonga: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12 Fetuli Paea, 11 Anzelo Tuitavuki, 10 William Havili, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Sione Havili, 7 Solomone Funaki, 6 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Halaleva Fifita (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Siua Maile, 1 Sigfried Fisi’ihoi
Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 David Lolohea, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Semisi Paea, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Manu Paea, 22 James Haiva, 23 ‘Otumaka Mausia

Date: Saturday, July 23
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Queensland
Kick-off: 17:05 local (10:05 BST, 9:05 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)

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