Shared passion for rugby unites Tongan and Australian forces

The one week tour of Tonga by Australian Army Rugby Union (AARU) culminated on game day, with matches between the men’s and women’s elite defence teams on 11 May 2019.

Throughout the week the AARU trained with His Majesty’s Armed Forces players, played in a 7’s tournament, engaged with local school and church communities, and conducted coaching clinics.

AARU Program Manager, Lieutenant Colonel Ashley Cootes said the week-long tour provided opportunities for meaningful engagement between the Australian and Tongan rugby teams, both on and off the field.

“Tonga has a rich rugby heritage and a passion for the game that is seen across the Pacific region,” Lieutenant Colonel Cootes said.

“Together we share this love of rugby. It unites us as we work through the program of training drills, coaching clinics, and community engagements.

“When it comes to game day, we enjoy the challenge of competing against a talented and highly skilled group of rugby players.”

Army Padre Lieutenant Colonel Alamoti Lavaki returned to Tonga for the second time this year and led the teams’ participation in a Sunday church service.

“I appreciate the opportunity to return to Tonga to participate in the rugby tour and build on the connections I made during my recent visit with a group of sailors and soldiers over Anzac Day,” Lieutenant Colonel Lavaki said.

“Being able to share my Tongan culture with the group while I show them this beautiful country and introduce them to the local community has been an honour.”

The activity was part of an enhanced program of engagement in the Pacific region. Tonga will also be part of an upcoming development tour with the Australian Defence Force and Australian National Rugby League.

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