Tongans at home in JWRT being hosted in Salt Lake City

USA’s Madison Hughes, right, fights to tackle Tonga’s Siale Talakai as USA and Tonga play Monday, June 18, 2012 in the 2012 IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy tournament at the Murray rugby park stadium. USA won 22-11. (Photo by Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

The U-20 Tonga team is playing nearly 6,000 miles away from home, it’s players have received constant support from the many Tongans living in the Salt Lake Valley on the field — and off.

“It’s awesome,” said forward Wilson Lavelua. “We feel like we’re just in Tonga, that we’re back home.”

That’s because while the crowd at Murray Park has been very loud in cheering for their homeland, they’ve also brought food and drinks and gifts during training, he said.

“We appreciate it so much,” said Lavelua, whose team will be playing in the third-place match against Georgia at 4 p.m. “We’re so grateful to be in this place with so many Tongans. That’s another thing to (play for), to please them and make them proud.”