In their quest to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time, the Irish are enjoying being eased into proceedings with this the second of two Pool B games against smaller nations that they are widely tipped to win.
Romania were brushed aside last week in a 12-try onslaught in the searing heat of Bordeaux that saw captain Johnny Sexton’s return and another bonus-point victory is expected here, before they face holders South Africa and a Scotland side likely to need a win to have any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Tonga have never made it out of the World Cup pool stage and had their week off during the opening round of matches.
The Pacific Islanders struggled in their warm-up for the competition and last beat a top-tier side in 2016, when they edged out Italy.
Date, kick-off time and venue
Ireland vs Tonga takes place today, Saturday September 16, 2023, with kick-off scheduled for 8pm BST.
The Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes will host the game.
Where to watch Ireland vs Tonga
TV channel: In the UK, Saturday’s showdown is to be shown live and free to air on ITV1, with coverage starting at 7:15pm.
Live stream: The ITV website and ITVX app will also offer a free live stream service for fans online.
Live blog: You can follow all the action live via Standard Sport’s Rugby World Cup blog.
Ireland vs Tonga team news
Ireland have made four changes to face Tonga, with Mack Hansen, Conor Murray, Ronan Kelleher and Josh van der Flier all drafted in for Keith Earls, Jamison Gibson-Park, Rob Herring and Joe McCarthy.
Fit-again duo Dave Kilcoyne and Robbie Henshaw are both on the bench, but there’s still no hooker Dan Sheehan. Jack Conan, Jimmy O’Brien and Stuart McCloskey are also not involved again.
Tonga are without injured duo Israel Folau and Telusa Veainu for the duration of the tournament. George Moala is suspended for this game and for the meetings with Scotland and South Africa after his ban for a dangerous tackle in the warm-up clash with Canada.
Toutai Kefu’s starting team features no fewer than four former All Blacks in Malakai Fekitoa, Charles Piutau, Vaea Fifita and Augustine Pulu, with Tonga benefitting from the changes to World Rugby eligibility rules that now allow capped players to switch their international allegiances after a three-year absence. Bordeaux prop Ben Tameifuna captains the side.
Ireland vs Tonga lineups
Ireland XV: Keenan; Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe; Sexton (c), Murray; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong; Beirne, Ryan; O'Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris
Replacements: Herring, Kilcoyne, Bealham, Henderson, Baird, Casey, Byrne, Henshaw
Tonga XV: Piutau; Taumoepeau, Fekitoa, Ahki, Kata; Mausia, Pulu; Fisi’ihoi, Ngauamo, Tameifuna (c); Lousi, L Fifita; Halaifonua, Talitui, V Fifita
Replacements: Moli, Kolomatangi, Apikotoa, Mafi, Funaki, Vailanu, Takul, Inisi
Ireland vs Tonga referee
English referee Wayne Barnes will take charge in Nantes with countryman Matthew Carley and Wales’ Craig Evans as assistants. The TMO will be England’s Tom Foley.
Ireland vs Tonga prediction
We’re yet to get a look at Tonga in this tournament but they are expected to struggle to lay a glove on an Irish team with genuine ambitions of going all the way.
Ireland to win, with a bonus point
Head to head (h2h) history and results
The two teams have only met once at the World Cup, when Ireland won 32-9 in 1987.
Ireland vs Tonga latest odds
Ireland to win: 1/200
Tonga to win: 50/1
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).