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Let's play tour match in Tonga after World Cup: England attack coach

 

Desire: Scott Wisemantel wants to see England in Tonga
Desire: Scott Wisemantel wants to see England in Tonga

By Duncan Bech

England face Tonga in their World Cup opener on Sunday amid a call from within their own camp to play a Test in the Pacific nation to aid a region that has enriched to the sport.

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Attack coach Scott Wisemantel believes that Twickenham should not view a tour match against the impoverished Islanders - whose population numbers a mere 108,000 - as beneath them.

For the past two years Wisemantel has overseen the Pacific Combine - a programme that identifies talent in Tonga, Fiji and Samoa with the ambition of securing their emerging stars professional contracts.

England have never played a Test in either Tonga or Samoa and have only appeared in Fiji on two occasions.

"There's no reason you couldn't go there. Other teams have been there - Italy did it a few years ago," Wisemantel said.

"I don't think that just because it's England you can think you're above everyone else. There's no reason you can't go there, it's just what you tack on along the way.

"If you tack on a game against Australia or New Zealand, then you make it viable as a tour. But it's a long way to go.

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"Tonga do need that competition. They need to play consistently against the best.

"Potentially a solution is that in the November window, the Pacific nations get to play one of the big dogs at one of the big stadiums and get a piece of the pie."

Wisemantel, who is expected to leave his post after the World Cup, insists his World Rugby-funded work in Fiji, where the combine is held, is undertaken in challenging circumstances.

"The facilities there are sparse. It's very raw. But from a personal point of view it's deeply rewarding. You see a guy come in at the start of the week from a village and then at the end of the week he's off to play professional rugby. It's brilliant," he said.

Only England wing Jack Nowell and prop Mako Vunipola are definitively unavailable for selection at the Sapporo Dome.

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