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Eight new caps for short-handed Tonga against Scotland

Tonga, wrestling with a manpower shortage at the start of their end-of-season tour, have named eight new caps in their matchday squad for Saturday's test against Scotland at Murrayfield.

The problems with returning to New Zealand, where many of the Tonga players are based, means the squad had to be selected largely from players based in the Northern Hemisphere.

Saturday's match also falls outside the international window so Australian Grant Doorey, who is leading the coaching team in the absence of Toutai Kefu, had only 27 men in camp this week as clubs kept hold of their players.

Kefu has remained in Australia as he and his family continue to recover from a violent home invasion in Brisbane in August, which resulted in serious injuries for the former Wallaby, his wife and his son.

Centre Vaea Vaea and winger Atunaisa Manu, both young Tonga sevens players, will make their debuts in the backline, while more experienced prop Loni Uhila and hooker Maile Ngauamo will earn their first caps in the front row.

Setofano Funaki will play his first test in the second row, while Tanginoa Halaifonua, who plays in France for Grenoble, gets his first taste of international rugby at blindside flanker.

There is experience at halfback with scrumhalf Sonatane Takulua captaining the side in his 43rd test alongside flyhalf Kurt Morath, who has played at three World Cups for his country.

In the July, Tonga lost 102-0 to the All Blacks, went down 42-13 and 37-15 to Samoa in a two-legged World Cup playoff but rallied with a 54-10 victory over the Cook Islands to keep alive their hopes of being in France in 2023.

Tonga also play England, the French Barbarians and Romania on their end-of-season tour.

Team: 15-James Faiva, 14-Atunaisa Manu, 13-Malietoa Hingano, 12-Vaea Vaea, 11-Walter Fifita, 10-Kurt Morath, 9-Sonatane Takulua (captain), 8-Valentino Mapapalangi, 7-Fotu Lokotui, 6-Tanginoa Halaifonua, 5-Setofano Funaki, 4-Halaleva Fifita, 3-David Lolohea, 2-Maile Ngauamo, 1-Loni Uhila.

Replacements: 16-Siua Maile, 17-Jethro Felemi, 18-Toma Taufa, 19-Dan Faleafa, 20-Onehunga Havili, 21-Mateaki Kafatolu, 22-Aisea Halo, 23-Navarre Haisila.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

Source: Reuters

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