Tongans on the right path
THEY are the halves changing perceptions of Pacific rugby league teams having an inability to produce quality playmakers.
The Sydney Roosters’ Samisoni Langi, 21, and Wests Tigers’ Joel Luani, 23, were entrusted with leading Tonga around Robina’s Cbus Super Stadium in their 18-16 Pacific Test loss to Samoa on Saturday night.
While both have been limited to 12 NRL games between them, Langi and Luani’s ability saw them compete at the 2013 World Cup.
They have a keen sense of how the game should unfold and a hardnosed approach to both attack and defence.
Langi has played understudy to Roosters and former NSW halves pairing James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce and backed himself to make his mark in the backline.
“We definitely have some creative ability in there and there are some young guys in the team, including the front-row, which are strong with the ball in hand,” Langi said.
“It sets a good platform for myself and the team and it was great to get out there.
“I have been playing in the backrow at the Roosters and a bit in the halves but I wouldn’t mind playing a six role or ball-playing back-rower.”
Luani represented the USA Tomahawks at the last World Cup where he held his own against the likes of Australia in a 62-0 defeat in Wrexham.
He said the experience had fuelled his desire to play at the top level.
“It is exciting because I watched that (Tonga-Samoa) game two years ago,’’ Luani said. ‘‘It was a brutal game and something I have always wanted to be part of.
“To represent Tonga, which is mainly what I grew up with, is something very special.”
TOP PLAYMAKERS: Joel Luani attacks for Tonga and (inset) Samisoni Langi. Main picture: Getty Images