Tonga has defeated Asia Champions Hong Kong 44-22 in the Asia / Pacific Play-off played in Australia at the Sunshine Coast Stadium to punch their ticket to Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

For their ninth Rugby World Cup participation, Tonga is joining Romania, Ireland, Scotland and world champions South Africa in Pool B.

The ‘Ikale Tahi’ will begin their RWC 2023 campaign against Ireland in Nantes on 16 September, before playing Scotland in Nice on 24 September, South Africa in Marseille on 1 October and finishing against Romania in Lille on 8 October.

Tonga’s bid to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2023 started just over a year ago when they were beaten by Samoa in both legs of their Oceania 1 play-off (42-13 and 37-15), to lose 79-28 on aggregate.

The Pacific Islanders then bounced back with a 54-10 win against Cook Islands earning them the right to compete in the Asia/Pacific 1 play-off against Hong Kong on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

Hong Kong’s hopes of qualification are not over yet. As the Asia / Pacific runners-up, they will take part in the Final Qualification Tournament  in November, a four-team round-robin competition with Portugal (Europe 3), Kenya (Africa 2) and USA (Americas 3). Dates, format and location of the Final Qualification Tournament will be announced on Monday 25 July.

Speaking after the win, Tonga’s Head Coach Tutai Kefu said:

“The main message at half-time was to calm ourselves. We knew that we were the stronger team and we just needed to calm ourselves and control the pace of the game.”

On winning:

“That’s was always the goal for this tour. We knew if we played anywhere near our ability we could go to the Rugby World Cup. We are not happy with just attending Rugby World Cup. We want more. We want to win one or two pool games and go further.”

On Pool B opponents:

“Really hard teams, really hard pool, but that’s alright. You need to be with good teams if you want to go to the next stage. If we are really competitive and still in the game half way through the second half, I think we can surprise a few teams.” – WORLD RUGBY

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