September 22, 2019 / 2:38 PM / 21 days ago

Improving Tonga can give Pumas a hard time, says coach Kefu

SAPPORO, Japan (Reuters) - Tonga coach Toutai Kefu has seen enough improvement in his side over the last two weeks to convince him that they will be even better in their next World Cup clash against Argentina in Osaka next Saturday.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool C - England v Tonga - Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan - September 22, 2019 Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu during a warm up REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

The Pacific islanders caused England problems in their Pool C clash at Sapporo Dome on Sunday before the 2003 champions strangled them into submission and secured a 35-3 bonus-point victory.

The result, however, had been expected to be a lot worse for Kefu’s side, who were humiliated 92-7 by three-times champions New Zealand two weeks ago in both teams’ final match ahead of the World Cup.

“We didn’t play well against the All Blacks and we caught them on a bloody good day,” Kefu said. “We knew that we needed to put ourselves under the magnifying glass and see where it went wrong.

“Today’s effort was much improved. We had a bit of a game plan that we executed ... but they (England) are a good team.

“They squeezed us for territory in the first half and we couldn’t get into their 30 to throw any punches.”

The Tongans were far more physical in the contact area than two weeks ago and scrambled well in defence, managing to put England’s players under pressure at crucial moments as they sought to finish off their opportunities.

Kefu added that they would still need to work on their core skills under pressure to challenge the Pumas, who suffered a nail-biting 23-21 loss to France in Tokyo on Saturday.

“We are getting better,” the former Australia number eight said. “There was a massive improvement tonight... we did create opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.

“We stayed in that game until well into the second half and they got away from us. We just need to keep chipping away.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; editing by Tony Lawrence

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