Tonga’s RWC under threat

Tonga’s participation in the Rugby World Cup is in serious doubt as the troubled Pacific nation’s rugby union faces a vast amount of financial difficulties.

Three directors resigned from the board last week, which is split along pro- and anti-democracy lines. A special general meeting to oust the remaining democratic faction is scheduled for next week.

More worryingly the union has run out of cash.

Last week former union chief executive Sakopo Lolohea helped put together a budget to get to France, where Tonga is in a pool with England and South Africa.

“There’s is no money, so it’ll take an International Rugby Board handout for the team to get there,” Lolohea told the Sunday Star-Times.

A union faction has tried to terminate coach Adam Leech’s contract and, to top it all off, the monarchy has re-claimed donated land earmarked for a new high performance unit.

Last year the International Rugby Board (IRB) appointed a Pacific Island general manager, William Glenwright, to create a high performance plan and rid the islands of factionalism and corruption. While Samoa and Fiji have responded positively, Tonga is dragging the chain.

On a recent visit to New Zealand, IRB bosses met with representatives from the islands and an IRB spokesman admitted that Tonga is causing some “anxiety.”

Behind the scenes the language being used is much more severe, the IRB apparently livid at having forked out so much money for so little return.

Sakopo said he’d heard the IRB was even considering pulling its resources from Tonga and developing facilities in the Cook Islands instead.

“The next release of revenue (to Tonga) will only be provided once we are happy with the situation in the country,” the IRB spokesman said.

Sakopo, who resigned about six months ago, said there were serious doubts about making it to the world cup, although the IRB will probably make sure Tonga is there.

 365 Digital

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