Rugby was brought to Tonga in the early 20th Century by sailors and missionaries and the Tonga Rugby Union was formed in late 1923. Tonga beat Fiji 9-6 in their first test in 1924 played in the capital Nuku’alofa. However, Tonga lost the second test 14-3 and drew the decider 0-0
Between 1924 and 1938 Tonga and Fiji played three test series every alternate year. Matches between the two Pacific nations were hard fought; many have claimed that the ancient feuding wars between the Islanders were transplanted onto the rugby field. Troubles during the third Test of Fiji’s 1928 tour to Tonga forced the game to be abandoned with Tonga leading 11–8. In 1954 Tonga played host to a touring Western Samoa.
Tonga beat New Zealand Maori in 1969 but had to wait until 4 years before they played their second test match, a 30–12 defeat against Australia in Sydney. They got their revenge when they beat Australia in Ballymore, Brisbane 6–11, scoring four tries to two in June 1973. The following year they travelled to the Arms Park for a non-cap international against Wales, a game that ended in a 26–7 defeat.
The first Tongan tour to Great Britain was in 1974 when they played 10 games, including those in Wales against East Wales, Llanelli, North Wales, Newport, West Wales and a Wales XV. The only tour victory was by 18–13 in the opener against East Wales. The ‘tests’ were lost by 44–8 to a Scotland XV and by 26–7 to the Wales XV.
In June 1999 Tonga had its greatest home victory, a 20–16 defeat of France in Nuku’alofa over a touring France. In 2007 Tonga participated in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, winning 2 of their pool matches and nearly defeating the eventual champions, South Africa, in one of the most memorable and exciting games of the tournament, eventually going down 30–25
Tonga achieved one of the greatest victories in Rugby World Cup history with their 19 – 14 win over France in the 2011 World Cup. On 24 November 2012, Tonga beat Scotland, at Pittodrie Stadium, 21-15 for their first victory over a traditional rugby power on a European pitch.