Defence coach MacLeod (TGA)- 'Playing best in the world critical for our development'

Defence coach MacLeod (TGA)- 'Playing best in the world critical for our development'

Comments from Tonga defence coach Dale MacLeod at a media briefing on Monday after the team lost 49-18 to South Africa at Stade de Marseille on Saturday, 1 October.

Dale MacLeod, defence coach

On the performance against South Africa:

"There were a lot of positives. We can be really proud of a lot of the things that are starting to grow in our group, right across our whole game there were some real positives against the world champions. They are a very, very good side, we can be pretty proud of our performance."

On being the first team to score three tries against South Africa at Rugby World Cup since New Zealand in 2019:

"That's good. I would have preferred if we had stopped them scoring three or four more tries. But yeah all those things we will sit back and reflect on over time."

On Pat Pellegrini's try (pictured):

"It was a lot going on, it was this way and that way. It was really good for our boys to express themselves and get the opportunity. That's a bit of a story in itself, him coming in for an injury and then gets to go out, scores a try and he walks in with a South Africa jersey on. Pretty special moment in his life and he will remember it forever I'd say.

"He is going really well. He was very unlucky not to make the group at the start. That is the beauty of the game, there are always opportunities. You have to be ready to take them when they come and he was."

On if the team have targeted the Romania before RWC began:

"No we didn't. We looked at it and thought, especially with the teams we have played, three of the top five int he world we just had to take every game week by week. Rugby players like it that way, you start talking too far into the future they forget about the tasks they are on and you don't get the performance you want. 

"We have built really well over the three weeks. We will be disappointed if we don't get a good performance but they [Romania] have shown they are a good side. Us playing South Africa probably brought the best out in us, playing Ireland and Scotland. We didn't look ahead more than the game we were playing to be fair."

On playing three of the top five ranked teams being beneficial for the players:

"100 per cent. It is so critical for the development and retention and recruitment of Tongan players, representing their country but to play the best in the world. You can see if we were playing another tier-one team next week we'd be right in the fight. If we had played this well against Ireland and Scotland they probably would have been different score lines I believe.

"Its critical for our growth and the boys get opportunities. You become what you play. It is the same for all the tier-two countries, there needs to be more opportunities. It was so iconic to play against a team like the Springboks last night and you think about it 16 years [since the last time Tonga played South Africa], that is a lot of players that don't get to do that. That needs to be better."

On how Tonga get more games against higher-ranked sides:

"I think it's a World Rugby thing and how that could work is when you do a northern tour at the end of each year they get an opportunity to play one of the home nations. We came over last year, we played four tests but never got to play against a tier one. You look at Fiji and Samoa, they have been pretty proactive around that, they consistently each year get some tier one. That is a little bit of World Rugby but that's also a little bit of Tonga and their connections and interactions.

"We've got to be competitive and I think we're starting to show people will come and watch. There was a massive crowd there last night. I think if people keep knocking on the door and keep asking questions we'll start to see a little bit of that happen."

On injuries:

"We're pretty good which is very pleasing. One of the boys has a hand injury, Sam Moli came off after being on for about 15 minutes. He has got to get that checked but until he has got x-rays we'll see where that gets to. Otherwise we are in pretty good space."

On preparations for Romania:

"For us we want to keep the boys fresh so it'll probably be a little bit less this week. We travel today so that has a toll on the players as well which is not ideal. We will travel back to Paris and we'll have a very light couple of days, Thursday off, main training Friday and just prepare for Romania."

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