Tonga will be hoping to pile the pressure on Ireland in their Rugby World Cup opener

The 32-year-old half of the party knows this because they apparently began the now-familiar ritual of painting his name on cars and properties in his village of Lapaha.

It remains to be seen if there are any cars or homes left to have his name engraved on them as they did before the 2015 and 2019 editions.

“They were hot at the time,” Takoloa said Tuesday.

“Then you know that when our people are hot, they feel hot, but when they are cold, they do not know where they are.

“But the feeling comes back.

“The fans in Tonga and all over the world are feeling the heat now as we approach our first match and I think they still do, painting cars a lot,” he added with a smile.

Tonga has appeared in every World Cup final except 1991 and recorded a famous pool win over 2011 finalists France.

However, despite never reaching the knockout stages, the passion for the team and the sport remains high as assistant coach Zane Helton has discovered.

“There is a lot of support in Tonga,” the Australian said.

“When we left there were individual vehicles for each player from their village to take them to the airport. It was like a carnival.

He added: “Feeling the support and love in this tournament was very touching for me.

“Heaven knows what that was like for you guys,” he added, rubbing Takoloa’s shoulder.


It can be said that the Tongan national team has the strongest squad in this tournament, after it was able, under the eligibility rules, to select players of Tongan origin who played for other countries.

Former New Zealand stars Charles Piutau and Malakai Fikitua are among those now wearing Tonga red.

However, Hilton says that although they bring a lot to the team in terms of experience and high-level skills, the Tongans have not sacrificed their identity.

“We’re representing Tonga, we’re doing it the Tongan way and that’s really important as a group,” Hilton said.

“They (those who have played for other countries) provide excellence but we ‘Ikali Tahi’ do it our way.”

“Sonatani has over 50 caps experience, which equates to 100 caps for a top-tier country which is an achievement, and that legacy is a really important part of this group.

“These guys are very interested in adding new ways of doing things, but it’s really important to maintain this legacy that we have, which is the ‘ikali tahi’ part.”

Hilton has coached in Australia and Japan, but says the Tongans influenced him in a way he hasn’t experienced anywhere else because of a certain human quality.

“Humility, which I think is a very important part of Tongan culture,” said Hilton, who joined the Queensland Reds coaching staff after the tournament.

“For me, this is the greatest training experience I have ever had, and I have been lucky enough to have a number of jobs all over the world.

“With them there is humility in all areas and the whole group expresses itself.

“I feel like I’m taking more from the experience than I’m giving to the experience.

“I definitely get more than I give.”

Takoloa – described by Hilton as “an absolute warrior who leads from the front” – says the support they received on their departure “gave them a boost” to take part in the Irish fixture.

Takoloa also made a bold prediction.

“It was great to pass through all the villages to get to the airport,” he said.

“The record so far for a show is four hours, and we will break that when we come back after the World Cup.”

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