Toutai Kefu hopes his ‘Ikale Tahi players can give the people of Tonga a “massive reason to smile” when they take on Samoa in their Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifier.
Tonga will meet Samoa at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, in the first leg of the play-off to determine the Oceania 1 qualifier for France 2023.
The second leg will take place at FMG Stadium in Hamilton on 17 July with the aggregate winner taking their place in Pool D, alongside England, Japan, Argentina and the Americas 2 qualifier.
Tonga remains one of the few countries in the world yet to record a COVID-19 case, however, that does not mean the pandemic has not had an impact on the Pacific Island nation.
A State of Emergency has been in place since March 2020, and the population will continue to live under its restrictions until at least 2 August.
“[Qualification] would mean so much to our people,” ‘Ikale Tahi coach Kefu told World Rugby.
“I remember when we qualified for the last World Cup, our whole island nation was abuzz and I got a lot of fanfare and a lot of mail and positive remarks for making the World Cup.
“Especially with all the challenges that we've faced, if we were able to do that, not only would our supporters be very happy, but I think it would give them a massive reason to smile and [provide] some happiness in their lives.”