Former Wallabies lock Adam Coleman is eager to play in a second Rugby World Cup in France next year...by representing his Tongan heritage.
Tongan coach Toutai Kefu revealed that Coleman had already signalled his eagerness to earn Tongan selection when he becomes eligible in mid-October.
Coleman, 30, will add something the Tongan side has so often lacked as an elite lineout performer in a skyscraping 2.04m frame.
The 38-Test Wallaby finished the English premiership season with mid-table London Irish last weekend.
Player stocks are looking up for the tiny Pacific island nation with former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau set to link with Tonga for the Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji in July when playing against Australia A will be a much-watch fixture.
It has all sprung from a change in World Rugby’s eligibility rules which now allow players to represent their native country after a three-year stand-down period.
“The rule change transforms the Tongan side,” said Kefu, who knows just how magnetic the Rugby World Cup is as a 1999 winner with the Wallabies.
“I approached Adam out of the blue a year ago and went the step further by sitting down with him in London about five weeks ago.
“He’s very keen to represent the Tongan side of his heritage and experience a World Cup again. It’s a connection he feels strongly about.”
Coleman’s late father Pau’u Afeaki captained Tonga’s rugby team in 1983 while cousin Inoke Afeaki played in the 1995, 2003 and 2007 World Cups for Tonga.
Coleman’s last Test for the Wallabies was at the World Cup in Japan in 2019 when the sour taste of losing to England in the quarter-finals was the end of his campaign.
The Tongan side is yet to lock in a spot for next year’s World Cup in France so a boost in strength for July’s one-off, final qualifier against Hong Kong or South Korea is huge.
“We are very aware of our players also having commitments in Europe so it’s great that Charles Piutau is available for one game in the PNC and Malakai Fekitoa for all those games in Fiji,” Kefu said.
Having two former All Blacks adding their class to the backline, along with Folau, is only the start.
“Should we qualify for the World Cup, we’d expect to put together a tour in November when players like Adam will be available to play against Tier One Test countries to really advance our preparations for France,” Kefu said.
“It’s a really exciting time for Tongan rugby.”