Former Wallabies star Israel Folau remains sidelined with a hamstring injury and will miss Tonga’s Rugby World Cup qualifier against Hong Kong on Saturday.
Folau, 33, injured his hamstring in his debut for Tonga on July 2 in the Pacific Nations Cup.
The Tongans, coached by Wallabies great Toutai Kefu, lost the match in Suva 36-0 to Fiji, with Folau forced off in the first half.
The ex-Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos winger took no further part in the tournament.
Hopes that Folau would be available for Saturday’s clash at Sunshine Coast Stadium, where the winner will qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup, were also dashed.
“It’s a pretty big injury – he’s out for 10 to 12 weeks,” Kefu said.
“It’s not the way he wanted to start his memories of playing for the Ikale Tahi (Tonga), but he’ll certainly be back for our matches in November.”
Kefu said Folau “loved being just one of the boys” in Tonga’s team.
“There are a few club players in there, there are a few Super Rugby players, there are a few players that play at the top level in France and England … Israel loves the fact the boys come from a wide spectrum,” Kefu said.
“He stayed in camp with us for another week after the game against and then went to spend some time with his family and then start some rehab.”
Tonga tasted defeat in all three of its Pacific Nations Cup games, including a 39-22 loss to Australia A last Saturday.
However, Kefu said his side improved with each performance and was confident of beating Hong Kong to qualify for the World Cup.
“We just made some silly errors in crucial parts of the field that led to us letting in multiple tries,” Kefu said in reflecting on Tonga’s Pacific Nations Cup campaign.
“The boys are just keen to win again … and the more time we spend together, the chances of us winning increase.
“It’s all about building combinations, building relationships and having connections.
“If our boys play anywhere near their ability, we should get a positive result against Hong Kong.”
Tonga squad: Telusa Veainu, Tima Fainga’anuku, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Fetuli Paea, Anzelo Tu’itavuki, William Havili, Sonatane Takulua (c), Sione Havili Talitui, Solomone Funaki, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Sam Lousi, Halaleva Fifita, Ben Tameifuna, Siua Maile, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi. Replacements: Samiuela Moli, David Lolohea, Siate Tokolahe, Semisi Paea, Sione Tuipulotu, Manu Paea, James Faiva, Otumaka Mausia.