Tongan player changes his name for World Cup

Tongan star Epi Taione has taken the bold step of changing his name on the eve of the World Cup – a controversial decision that will benefit his teammates, but has left the International Rugby Board (IRB) fuming.

Taione, who is no stranger to controversy has caused a big stir by changing his name to Paddy Power.

The name change itself would not have been a major problem, had it not been for the fact that it is also the name of an Irish bookmaker.

His name change is part of a five-figure sponsorship agreement with the bookmaker – which funded the cash-strapped Tonga team’s preparations for the World Cup tournament.

The versatile Tongan – who can play either centre, wing or No.8 – changed his name by deed poll and will be called Paddy Power throughout the tournament.

The 125kg star saw his career in English rugby come to an end in February 2006, when he was banned for 18 weeks after pleading guilty to biting Munster and Ireland No.8 Denis Leamy in Sale’s Heineken Cup loss to the Irish province. Having previously played for Tynedale and the Newcastle Falcons, he joined Japanese club side Sanyo Wild Knights.

The 28-year-old has set his sights on trying to fulfil a lifetime ambition of scoring a try against world champions England.

Tonga will play Brian Ashton’s England side in their final pool game on September 28, and Paddy Power (the bookmaker) have set odds of 7-1 on their namesake delivering what could prove an awkward moment for commentators unsure whether or not to subscribe to the marketing masterstroke.

Bookmaker Paddy Power admitted it was a dream come true to see his name feature at the Rugby World Cup.

“I was never good enough to play rugby in a World Cup and figured this was as close as I was going to get,” he told the Sunday Star Times of New Zealand.

Taione is hoping his name change will bring a change of fortune for his country whose campaign kicks off against the USA in Montpellier on September 12.

“It’s a great fun idea, I was happy to help when I was asked. I hope some of the luck of the Irish rubs off on us.”

Taione’s agent Nick Taylor of Phoenix Management admitted the opportunity to help the Tongans was too good to turn down.

“We are really appreciative of Paddy Power’s efforts in help to supporting an emerging nation like Tonga,” he said.


365 Digital

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