Tonga became fully independent from Britain in 1970 and has very close ties with New Zealand. Lots of Tongans go to NZ to work – and of course play Rugby! At the start of their matches, they perform their ritual dance Sipu Tau. Along with other Rugby World Cups teams Fiji & Samoa, Tonga belongs to the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance.  Expect some very physical tackling – especially as they have New Zealand, Georgia and Namibia in their group – so some hard hitting rugby looks likely.

17th September is  the birthday of Crown Prince Tupouto’a- Ulukalala so hopefully he will send his birthday wishes to the Tongan team for good luck in that first match against Georgia!

Captain: Nili Latu

Player to Watch: Nili Latu, their inspiring Captain will pull out all the years of experience of his team as always leading by example. Never stops going.

Dates of Pool Matches:

Saturday 19th September vs Georgia – Kick off 12.00 – Kingsholm, Gloucester

Tuesday 29th September vs Namibia – Kick off 16.45 – Sandy Park, Exeter

Sunday 4th October vs Argentina – Kick off 14.30 – Leicester City Stadium, Leicester

Friday 9th October vs New Zealand – Kick off 20.00 – St James Park, Newcastle

For more information on Tongan Rugby – http://tongarugbyunion.net

For full details of the Rugby World Cup follow: http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/

 

What to Eat & Drink watching the Ikale Tahi. 

Food: The volcanic soils of these islands are very fertile, with most of the produce being planted here by in comers throughout history. Coconut is a very important part of Tongan cooking both the milk and the flesh.  Obviously being surrounded by such great water, seafood such as crab plus a wide range of fish as well as octopus feature strongly. Breadfruit is widely found as indeed are yams.   The key to Tongan cooking is simple and letting the flavours shone through.  But for a sophisticated match day nibble,  try making Ota Ika – which is a local type of ceviche of fish which has been “cooked” using lemon juice – but to make it Tongan, add coconut milk and serve with a selection of fresh crudités.

Drink:

Beer: There is a local home brew called Hopi, which by many accounts sounds best avoided! Try the specialist beer shops here – for some Mata Maka – although brewed in neighbouring New Zealand, it’s only sold in Tonga.

Kava:  A traditional Tongan drink made from dried and ground Kava Plant Root used at ceremonies.

Wine: Right this is where things become a little tenuous! As Tonga, nor Fiji or Samoa are suitable for wine making (well from local proper vines anyway!), this section proves a bit of a challenge.  So I have taken the letters of each country to find a wine somewhere in the world that has a (sort of!) link to the Pacific islands – even if it’s only that it comes from New Zealand, which has such strong links with Tonga –  and at the same time, hope you discover some more unusual wines.

T is for – well two varieties in one. Tempranillo blended with Touriga Nacional from NZ’s Trinity Hill. The vineyards for this wine are located in the revered Gimblett Gravel region of Hawkes Bay.   Tempranillo known as the main grape of Rioja, along with the leading grape variety of Portugal’s Douro valley, blend well to create bramble fruit with chocolate on the finish.  £20 approx – from http://thenewzealandcellar.co.uk

O is for Otago, or more precisely Central Otago on NZ’s South Island. Surrounded by stunning countryside are the Riesling vineyards that go into Earths End. Versatile, appealing, just off dry white with hints of elderflower it is great to pair with anything coconut given the Tonga use of it in many recipes. £13 from http://www.marksandspencer.com

N is for Nerello Mascalese. Quite a jump away from Tongo to the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, but the volcanic soils of both places are the link. Look out for this variety from leading estate Benanti (great wines made by lovely people). Glorious complex red showing tobacco, liquorice and a good amount of tannin.  Contact their UK importers for local stockists – http://www.astrumwinecellars.com

G is for Gamay Noir – more precisely from New Zealand award winning estate Te Mata. The grape variety used in Beaujolais here gives lovely raspberry hints . A great lighter style of red. £17.99 from https://www.oxfordwine.co.uk

A is for Assyrtiko. A very tenuous leap here but I’ve only met a few Tongans and they were unfailingly polite and helpful. So find of bottle of this fabulous white from Santorini and do your bit to help out the Greek economy!  From Domaine Sigalas, a lovely fresh example of this grape variety which shows the typical salty notes, but balanced with honey on the palate. Great food wine. £16.95 from Berry Brothers & Rudd http://www.bbr.com

Websites for estates mentioned above:

http://www.trinityhill.com

https://www.temata.co.nz

http://vinicolabenanti.it

http://www.sigalas-wine.com