Tonga given rugby red card

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Tonga’s rugby league team has been banned from competing at Test level – meaning it will be unable to take part in this year’s World Cup.

Today, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Lausanne (Switzerland) has dismissed the appeal filed by Tonga, against the game’s global ruling body, which sought to overturn a decision to expel the Pacific Islanders from all international competition and revoke its membership of the game’s ruling body.

At the heart of the row is Tonga’s refusal to comply with the demands of International Rugby League’s top brass, who had called for the urgent adoption of a series of recommendations designed to clean up the game in the country. In addition, Tonga’s attempts to frustrate the investigation – by refusing to answer questions and cooperate with the inquiry team – also counted heavily against them.

The expulsion takes the game into unchartered territory, for never has a country been reprimanded so severely. It comes into force immediately – putting their participation in the Rugby League World Cup in severe doubt.

The tournament, which is being hosted in the UK, is scheduled to kick off in October. Although firm outsiders, Tonga were due to play against Papua New Guinea in St Helens on 26 October, with further pool fixtures scheduled against Wales (1 November) and The Cook Islands (7 November).

Only a year ago, the Tongans recorded one of their greatest-ever victories when they beat world champions Australia in their own back yard.

Now, unless officials can somehow persuade rugby league chiefs to reconsider today’s unambiguous verdict, these games will now not go ahead – and the national side will become a sporting pariah for the foreseeable future.

Report by Tony Yorke

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