Tonga will be better for the time together – Kefu

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Still stymied by the absence of Tonga's better players, a consistent problem in the years between World Cups, Kefu said after the side's 0-102 loss to the All Blacks at Mt Smart Stadium that making use of the time available was vital.

"I think Samoa are in the same boat, they've had issues getting access to their players," he said.

Kefu said Saturday night had been an unpleasant experience but considering everything that had gone on in the background they had done well to get a team together.

It was always a challenge to get the Tongan side together. Covid made it even more challenging.

However, in all his campaigns with Tonga, the players never complained they just got on with it.

Out of the disappointment of the loss, there were 13 new players to celebrate, including three or four nuggets, who would play for longer with the side.

But the All Blacks had been too good for them.

"We don't get to play Tier Ones too often so if we get a chance we'll have a crack," he said.

They were to play the Maori All Blacks, but that had changed. However, they weren't concerned, and they wanted to give it their best shot.

The players in this era were able to turn off the after-effects of such a loss, compared to when he played when such losses tended to linger more.

The side didn't give up and competed until the end, and he thought that was a positive side with work to be done on their execution and decision-making before their World Cup playoff games with Manu Samoa over the next two weeks.

Kefu said if eligibility issues were settled it would be easier for Tonga. He understood the need for a stand-down period of three or four years for players but felt there were other hoops they had to jump through that could be taken out of the requirements.

That would transform the team, he said.

Similarly, a Moana Pasifika team in Super Rugby would be a bonus because he could work with those players closer at hand.

Captain Sonatane Takulua said his message throughout the assault on their goalline by the All Blacks was to keep fighting because they were Tongans, and they never gave up easily.

He was proud of the response from his players who were still competing at full-time. Even at 95-0, just before the final whistle, he said he decided to keep playing rather than kick the ball out to end the game.

"It's tough, but you've just go to front up but it was good to play against the Tier One teams, the All Blacks are the No1 team in the world but it is tough to take," he said.


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