“Best paid ever” ‘Ikale Tahi failed to perform as expected, rugby boss says after three losses

Tonga Rugby Union Chair ‘Epeli Taione said he took full responsibility for the ‘Ikale Tahi team’s failure to perform at this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Taione said the team had failed to perform to expectations  and this would continue to affect him and the TRU for a long time.

His comments came after a string of defeats suffered by the Tongan team.

He said this was by far the best prepared and paid team Tonga had ever fielded, but their  performance was not good enough.

He apologised to the nation and said he could not accept the situation. He said the team’s failure was unacceptable.

Taione made the comments after Tonga lost to Georgia, Argentina and before the team lost again to New Zealand. The losses caused great disappointment in the kingdom and triggered strong criticisms from many of the Tongan ‘Ikale Tahi supporters.

Tongan die hard supporters found the loss to Georgia the most tragic experience as they thought it should have been a no-brainer, given the outcome of the last match between the two countries in November 2014 when Georgia was defeated.

Many of the team’s supporters pointed fingers at the coach and the TRU. Some claimed  the team’s members were too old to play, an accusation that was also made about the South African team after its defeat by Japan.

Tonga pulled out of this year’s Rugby World Cup  after its team  lost to Georgia by 17 – 10,  Argentina 45-6 and  to the mighty All Blacks by 47-9 . Georgia has now qualified for the 2019 World Cup.

Many ‘Ikale Tahi supporters still regard the national team as their number one and said the boys did their best, even if they lost.

After the weekend’s loss to the All Blacks the Tongan supporters took to Facebook to show their appreciation and gratitude to the team.

Jenny Latu Salesa, the Tongan New Zealand Member of Parliament, wrote: “[We] are also die hard All Blacks supporters, however when they play against Tonga, we will support Tonga first, ABs are the world champs and they should have displayed more on the field today against a much lower ranked team. Overall, Tonga played really well against the ABs and I’m proud of their performance.”

“Well Tonga is still having floats and marching in the streets after their last game. We are proud of our boys and proud how they represented the country on the field!”, Josephine Latu Sanft wrote.

“Great game Tonga, awesome supporters, and in depth post match analysis.” another commentator wrote.

“Still proud of you Tonga,” John Nicholas Pulu wrote.

In a strongly worded message received by Kaniva News through Facebook Taione said: “This is not how we want to end the [competition], we are quite gutted and it will haunt [us] for a long time. I want to say thank you to everyone for their love and support. I took full responsibility for the team performance, thanks to the team and management but most importantly our fans. Ofa atu.

“We have no excuses, this is by far best prepared and paid team ever. Not good enough and we have to be brutally honest as a Board and management about performances. A full enquiry to be followed, and tough question will be asked. We cannot accept mediocre, and our performance is a big failure and it is unacceptable. Am sorry.”

The main points

  • Tonga Rugby Union Chair ‘Epeli Taione said today he took full responsibility for the ‘Ikale Tahi team’s failure to perform at this year’s Rugby Wold Cup.
  • Taione said the team had failed to perform to expectations and this would continue to affect him and the TRU for a long time.
  • His comments came after a string of defeats suffered by the Tongan team.
  • He said there would be a full enquiry into the team’s performance.

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