Tonga, the last Polynesian monarchy, is made up of 170 islands situated in the South Pacific. It 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 South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Romania in their group.

Despite, some hard-hitting rugby looking likely, and their coach, former Wallaby Toutai Kefu, must be seeking an upset or two against one of those teams to ensure that Tonga get past the pool matches, which they have not done in their previous nine RWC appearances. 

Known as ‘Ikale Tahi, which translates as the Sea Eagles, they play Irelanbd on 16th September so hoping they can wine as a gift to the Tongan Crown Prince Tupouto’a- Ulukalala, whose birthday it is on 17th September!

Captain: Sonatene Takulua

Player to Watch: Paula Ngauamo, who plays hooker is always a solid presence on the field.

For more information on Tongan Rugby –

For full details of the Rugby World Cup follow:

What to Eat & Drink whilst 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.


Beer: Most are imported beers from New Zealand such as Mata Maka. There is a local home brew called Hopi, which sounds best avoided!

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 the country to find a wine somewhere in the world so at the same time, hope you discover some more unusual wines.

T is for – Tempranillo from NZ’s Trinity Hill. The vineyards for this wine are in the revered Gimblett Gravel region of Hawkes Bay.  Tempranillo known as the main grape of Rioja in Spain, in this delicious antipodean example is all bramble fruit with chocolate on the finish.  £22 approx. – from

O is for Otago, or more precisely Central Otago on NZ’s South Island. Surrounded by stunning countryside in a premium location are the Riesling vineyards whose grapes go into Wild Earth Riesling.  Versatile, appealing, fabulous acidity with hints of elderflower & lime, it is great to pair with anything coconut, given the Tonga use of it in many recipes. £14 from

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 red variety bottled as Etna Rosso (and blended with small amount of Nerello Cappuccio) from small estate of Monteleone. Simply delightful, bright crunchy red fruit, but a pop of salinity among the smoky finish makes this a delicious wine. Contact their UK importers for local stockists –

G is for Gamay – the red grape variety of Beaujolais. But cast off all those bad memories of hideous Beauj Nouveau – and seek out one of the Beaujolais Cru wines , of which there are ten  – St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. The Cru wines have more depth and chacarter so worth paying a little extra such as for Domaine Cedric-Lathuiliere – Morgon Vieilles Vignes. From

A is for Albarino. A crisp white variety, usually found in Northern Spain, but this one is from New Zealand’s Nelson region – from Waimea Estates. Appealing notes of clementines and crisp acidity & minerality – a great match for a seafood platter! £11 from