Taukeiaho: Emotions to run high for Tonga's Test 'homecoming'

Tonga prop Siosiua Taukeiaho expects the memories to come flooding back when his side returns to Waikato Stadium for the first time since their history-making victory over the Kiwis there in 2017.

Tonga became the first second-tier nation to beat a tier-one side when they beat New Zealand 28-22 that day, and ahead of facing Great Britain on Saturday night Taukeiaho said the venue and city of Hamilton remained special to the squad.

"It is going to bring out some emotions for sure," Taukeiaho said.

"A lot of us love being here in Hamilton because of that memory, we have a lot of fans here as well and the atmosphere is awesome.

"It's good to be back in the colours again seeing familiar faces, as well as some new faces coming into the squad."

Experienced back Will Hopoate – who has appeared in all nine games Tonga has played since the start of 2017 – said playing in Hamilton rather than Auckland also meant it would be a more settled build-up.

While their dedicated fans turn out in force wherever they go, the attention placed on the players is far less than in Auckland where the majority of New Zealand's Tongan community resides.

"Part of the reason we are getting these Test matches is because our fans turn out in numbers, so we will never forget that, but being in Hamilton means getting out of the rat race in Auckland," Hopoate told NRL.com.

"I suppose you have got to put a lid on [fan events] in some ways because we have to prepare for a game and there's training to do.

"In Hamilton we are staying at the same hotel as we did during the World Cup in 2017, just so there's some familiarity.

"A lot of the boys live in Sydney, so to come to a familiar place over here where we have been before definitely helps with the preparation."

Taukeiaho said the squad were focusing on the positives to come out of last weekend’s Downer World Cup 9s, despite the team winning one of their three games.

Tonga were crushed 30-7 by the Cook Islands in their tournament opener, before they beat Fiji in extra time and then lost to Samoa.

The England team – which contained a large number of the players likely to take the field for Great Britain on Saturday night – went all the way to the semi-finals where they eventually lost to New Zealand.

“Obviously we are disappointed, we went there to win the comp and it didn't happen and we didn't make the finals, but it's time to move on and focus on the Tests,” Taukeiaho said.

“We will be better for it. A few of the boys who played in the Nines were boys who didn't play in the top eight of the NRL competition, so that's allowed them to get their legs running and their engines started.”