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Pacific's forgotten Islanders are ready

TONGA are the forgotten men of the Pacific Islands.

While Samoa power on at 15s with two World Cup quarter finals and a dozen wins over Tier One nations and Fiji collect silverware on the sevens circuit, the smallest of the island nations rarely get the plaudits despite being 12th in the world, just two places behind Scotland, today's opponents

If they ever get to put out all their best players, then watch out. At the moment, the bigger, richer countries get first claim on the Tongans exiles – Jonah Lomu is a perfect example – but if that were to change they would have an embarrassment of talent.

More immediately and more practically, imagine what would happen if rich European clubs did not demand first loyalty. There are Tongans right across England and France playing this weekend who could, probably would, have been in their national side if their clubs had played ball.

Mana 'Otai, the new head coach, is philosophical about the loss of players such as Soane Tonga'uiha, the prop who will be turning out for Northampton this weekend. He said: "It is a huge honour to play for Tonga, but for me the most important thing is player welfare. There are clubs who are using other methods to make sure that when Tonga play, these players stay behind."

What is left is still explosive, nothing like the cliched view of Pacific Island teams that love to smash opponents in the tackle and run with the ball but are not interested in the chores of line out and scrum drills. So if any Scots are expecting an easy run they can forget it. The forgotten men of Tonga are out to make their mark.

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