Former Wallaby Timani in Tongan squad for northern tour

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Former Wallabies flanker Lopeti Timani has been named in the Tonga team for their upcoming tour (AFP/XAVIER LEOTY)
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Former Wallabies flanker Lopeti Timani was named Thursday in the Tonga team for their upcoming northern tour to play Scotland, England, the French Barbarians and Romania.

Tongan-born Timani, a loose forward, played 12 matches for Australia in 2016 and is currently with the French club Toulon.

He became eligible to switch countries at Test level after representing Tonga in Sevens at an Olympics qualifying tournament earlier this year.

He is one of 10 new faces in the squad of 40 which also includes Perpignan wing Afusipa Taumoepeau who previously played Super Rugby for both the ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels.

Former All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa also played in the Sevens tournament to meet the criteria to change countries but missed selection after suffering a shoulder injury last month while playing for Wasps in the English Premiership.

The Tonga squad has been drawn from teams in 10 countries with most of them based in Europe as Covid-19 travel restrictions made it difficult to include players from Australia and New Zealand.

Tonga Rugby Union chief executive Peter Harding said coach Toutai Kefu and manager Lano Fonua had done "a great job putting this squad together" although not all players would be available for selection for all four matches.

There may yet be changes depending on flights, managed isolation arrangements and contract negotiations, and the Scotland fixture was outside the release window.

"This has taken some negotiation with clubs, undertaken by Toutai and Lano, and this has to date been successful," Harding said.

"Clubs have been good to deal with and I want to thank the French Rugby Federation for their assistance."

Kefu will not travel with the team as he continues his recovery after being stabbed by intruders at his Brisbane home in August.

cf/arb/qan

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