College teacher keen to play for Tonga

CLUB AND COUNTRY: Daniel Morath of West Harbour could go from club rugby to playing the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup.
CLUB AND COUNTRY: Daniel Morath of West Harbour could go from club rugby to playing the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup.

Teacher Daniel Morath could be playing against the All Blacks at this year's Rugby World Cup.

The 29-year-old Liston College PE teacher is part of Tonga's 50-man squad selected to compete in the prestigious Churchill Cup tournament in England next month.

He was picked along with his younger brother Kurt, a first-five player in Australia.

Mr Morath plays halfback for Waitemata RFC. He's quietly confident about his chances of making the final 30-man world cup squad and already has three international caps to his name.

But first he will have to perform in the Churchill Cup against sides including Canada, Italy A and the United States.

"If I play well in that tournament then I think I will be sweet," he says. "I believe there are four of us in contention for my position and traditionally for the world cup they will take three halfbacks."

Tonga will face the All Blacks in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup at Eden Park on September 9.

Mr Morath says the Tongan national side could be one of the dark horses at the world cup.

"They are considered laid-back but when they get that jersey on it's a different story," he says.

"And physically there is no one better."

Mr Morath was born and raised in New Zealand but can play for Tonga because his mother is from Vava'u.

He says his decision to put on Tonga's red jersey is mainly because of the current head coach, former All Black Isitolo Maka.

"Isitolo went out and began looking for all players with Tongan heritage so I got in touch with the coaches and the rest is history."

The West Harbour resident says playing with his brother for Tonga against Samoa last year was memorable.

"`It was a good feeling and of course mum was the proudest."

Mr Morath admits he has thought about what it would be like to face the All Blacks haka in the first match. But he isn't getting too far ahead of himself.

"You grow up watching the All Blacks so I have thought about that a bit.

"I'm not really nervous right now but if I'm playing it would probably kick in during the week of the game."

Playing for Tonga also means learning some of the language and their equivalent of the haka, Sipi Tau.

"I've got the actions down pat.

"My Tongan words are pretty good now since all the play calls are in Tongan."

He says his students are impressed their teacher has been picked to play for Tonga and are closely following his world cup preparation.

Western Leader