Rookie 'Ikale Tahi side preparing for All Blacks juggernaut

Source: 1News

Tonga's rugby team have been enjoying getting their reps up at their training facility in Tauranga ahead of the ominous challenge that awaits them against the All Blacks on Saturday.

With many players and staff stuck overseas, Tonga has scoured New Zealand looking for players to take on the All Blacks at Mount Smart Stadium this weekend.

Fifteen new caps are in line to debut for 'Ikale Tahi, many of whom have put down the tools for a week to take up the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I was on the tools and got a Tongan number call me, picked it up and Toutai [Kefu] was like ‘Sam, do you want to play for ‘Ikale?’” 22-year-old hooker Sam Moli told 1 NEWS.

Some are still shaking off rust from a long time away from the sport.

Lock Harrison Mataele, 27, only started playing rugby again last year after earlier giving up the sport due to injuries. He now works as a personal trainer.

Tonga perform their pre-match haka ahead of the rugby union Test match - All Blacks v Tonga played at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand on Saturday 7 September 2019. Copyright photo: © Bruce Lim / www.photosport.nz

"It’s a lot to take in. A few weeks ago I was in the smoko room eating mi-goreng, now I’m eating good food, getting my nutrients in," Mataele laughed.

Moli and Mataele are just two among the dozens of rookies in this year's Pacific Island teams doing what is needed to keep international rugby going.

While they may be outmatched by the star power of the All Blacks, there is no doubt that this experience will be one this Tongan side never forget.