Scotland to face ex-heavyweight boxer known as ‘Tongan Bear’ in Autumn Nations Series

The physical challenge Scotland will face against Tonga on Saturday has been underlined with the selection of Loni Uhila at loosehead.

Tongan prop Loni Uhila during a Barbarians squad photocall in 2018. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

The prop is a former professional heavyweight boxer and is known as the ‘Tongan Bear’. Weighing in at 19 stone (125kg), Uhila will ensure the visiting front row packs a punch at Murrayfield this weekend.

He played for La Rochelle in the French Top 14 last season and is one of six debutants in the Tonga XV to face Gregor Townsend’s side in their opening match of the Autumn Nations Series.

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He grew up in Tonga, then moved to New Zealand on a scholarship to Sacred Heart College. He played for Waikato and the Hurricanes before switching to France where he featured for Clermont Auvergne, La Rochelle, and now Hyères in French Fédérale 1 league.

The other new caps are winger Atunaisa Manu, centre Vaea Vaea, hooker Maile Ngauamo, lock Setofano Funaki and flanker Tanginoa Halaifonua.

There are two more uncapped players on the bench, prop Toma Taufa and versatile back Navarre Haisila.

Glasgow Warriors’ new winger Walter Fifita has been picked to win his fourth cap and there is also a place in the team for former Glasgow flanker Fotu Lokotui.

Loni Uhila, right, takes on Dave Letele in Hamilton, New Zealand, in 2014. Picture: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Tonga: James Faiva; Atunaisa Manu, Mailetoa Hingano, Vaea Vaea, Walter Fifita; Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua (c); Loni Uhila, Maile Ngauamo, David Lolohea, Halaleva Fifita, Setofano Funaki, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Fotu Lokotu, Valentino Mapapalangi. Subs: Suia Maile, Jethro Felemi, Toma Taufa, Dan Faleafa, Onehunga Havili, Mateaki Kafatolu, Aisea Halo, Navarre Haisila.

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