Rugby Rugby

Tongan boss quits in WCup selection row


NUKU’ALOFA, TONGA, August 23 – The head of the Tonga Rugby Union has quit in a row over the selection of former captain Nili Latu in the World Cup squad and against a background of parliamentary interference.

Tongan rugby’s chief executive and board chairman Bob Tuckey’s resignation comes just three weeks before Tonga play the All Blacks in the opening World Cup match in Auckland on September 9.

Although Tonga’s World Cup squad has not been publicly announced, head coach Isitolo told Matangi Tonga Online Tuesday that Tuckey had voiced dissatisfaction with the selection of Latu.

The rugged Latu captained Tonga at the 2007 World Cup where he made headlines for a controversial tackle that floored England’s Lewis Moody.

However, he has been out of favour in Tonga of late, after reportedly seeking more money for players, and has not been required for the side this year.

However, Maka said he needed Latu in his World Cup squad and advised the player to make up with the board.

“It was a hard decision for me to make to select him, but my country comes first, and I need him on the side of the scrum,” Maka said.

“I did not know that Bob was going to resign over it. My decision was based purely on what I thought was best for my country.”

Tuckey, an Australian, has also been under pressure from a group of politicians in parliament who wanted him replaced with an MP, although this move was opposed by members of the Tongan team.

Last week, the Tongan parliament voted 13-4 in favour of Finance Minister Sunia Fili appointing a new chairman and a deputy chairman.

Deputy Prime Minster Samiu Vaipulu told parliament Tuckey’s departure was due to his fall-out with Maka and not because of political pressure.