'It is sad' - Hopes Kefu will make Tonga tour as All Black welcomed onboard

Tonga lock Steve Mafi is hoping head coach Toutai Kefu will be able to join the Pacific Island nation’s European tour in November as he recovers from the violent home break in that left him needing surgery in a Brisbane hospital last week.

Kefu’s wife remains in hospital with a serious wound to her arm but the former Australian World Cup winner has been released along with his son and daughter who were also injured in the machete and knife attack by four teenage robbers who now face various charges, including attempted murder. Kefu has revealed the impact of the horrific incident saying: “You know at times, there’s outbursts of crying. I think the first step for us is just getting back to the house and then we take it day-by-day. The kids seem to be OK, but they still need to be monitored probably moving forward. It’s a traumatic event so it’s going to be a slow process.”

Mafi, the 33-cap experienced London Irish lock, knows that Kefu may opt to stay with his family given the traumatic effect of the attempted robbery and like the rest of the Tonga community around the world has sent messages of support to his head coach. Tonga will play Scotland, England, Uruguay and Romania on their Europe tour which starts on October 30 with the added complication that the first match is outside the agreed international release period which covers the first three weeks of November.

With international travel still being dictated by COVID-19 quarantine rules, Tonga, like Samoa, look certain to have to rely on European based players for the majority of their squad to take part in the Autumn tests. Mafi told RugbyPass: “Hopefully Toutai can make the tour but it is a decision for him and his priority is the family. We wish him and his family all the best and if he comes through and we see him in November then we will love that.

“If he has to put his family first then that is only right. It is sad what has happened to him and his family. The Tongan community is strong and he has earned the respect of a lot of people at home and around the world and we all saw the messages of encouragement and prayers towards him and the family was massive. We are Tongans and we stick together regardless and are all getting behind our coach and encouraging him.”

Tonga has boosted its playing pool thanks to the rule which allow players to switch countries if they play in an Olympic qualifying sevens events and this has now made Wasps former All Black Malakai Fekitoa available along with Wallabies forward Lopeti Timani, former Australian sevens representative Afusipa Taumoepeau and ex-All Blacks Sevens player Tima Fainga’anuku. There have also been two significant signings by Gallagher Premiership clubs that mean two more players are in the Kefu’s selection mix.