Food, faith and funny men all come up in this conversation with Agen and Tonga hooker Paula Ngauamo

Downtime with Agen and Tonga hooker Paula Ngauamo

When we asked the Tonga management who would be the best player in the squad to partake in our offbeat Q&A, they immediately suggested Paula Ngauamo – and we weren’t disappointed. The hooker, who scored his inaugural Test try as Tonga beat Fiji for the first time in seven years this summer, was quick with the one-liners and sarcasm…

Who are the jokers in the Tonga team?

Ziggy (Siegfried Fisiihoi) and Siua (Halanukonuka). They’re always back-stabbing! As soon as I leave the room, I can feel the knives in my back. Things aren’t easy for them; it’s how they vent their problems, by back-stabbing and gossiping.

Do you have any phobias?

Nothing. Tongans aren’t scared of anything. We’re fearless.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard on the pitch?

Sione Fifita kept dropping balls in training and said it wouldn’t happen in the games, then he dropped three balls in a Test (against Georgia in the Pacific Nations Cup). It was funny but shouldn’t be funny. We’ve not talked to him since!

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I don’t get embarrassed.

What annoys you?

The Tongan fitness guys are always watching YouTube and then that’s our programme for the next day. There’s not much studying behind what they’re doing.

Who’s the best dancer in the Tonga squad?

Me – by a mile. I can dance. Nasi Manu is pretty bad. I’m probably up there with the singing too. Nasi and I grew up together in New Zealand. We’re second cousins and have known each other since high school. He’d eat all my food. It’s funny looking back.

Who’s in charge of the team music?

Cooper Vuna. But he’s a bit older than us. I think he was born in 1963 and he plays a lot of Willie Nelson and The Beatles. I like a bit of country but it’s a bit much for a lot of the young guys. It goes a bit far back. More reggae would be good.

If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be and why?

Kurt Morath. He takes care of the fines and always takes all the money – we never see it! It stays in his room and then goes with him on the flight home.

Agen and Tonga hooker Paula Ngauamo

Tennis star: Serena Williams in action at the French Open (Getty Images)

Who would be your three dream dinner party guests?

The Colonel, so I could pick his brain and get the recipe for KFC. I’d back myself to make it as good, if not better. I’m handy in the kitchen. Then Jesus, so I could ask him if I’m going to heaven and what I need to do to get there. And Serena Williams. She’s so competitive and she’s stayed at the top for so long.

What’s your nickname?

No one’s given me any nicknames. It might just be Big P.

Do you have any tattoos?

I do but I wish I was a blank canvas. My cousin did them because he wanted to practise on us!

What are the best things about Tonga?

The people, the culture, family – everything. It’s just day-to-day life; there’s less stress. It’s different when you grow your own food too – that’s great. Taro, tapioca – we grow it all and farm chickens. I was born in New Zealand, then went to Tonga when I was a couple of months old and stayed with my grandparents for five years.

The silliest thing you’ve ever bought?

A salad. I learnt my lesson after that. It’s a waste of money.

Agen and Tonga hooker Paula Ngauamo

Tasty treat: Paula Ngauamo is a big fan of KFC (Getty Images)

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I don’t feel guilty when I eat KFC and I don’t really watch TV. And I’ve got the best taste in fashion in this whole team.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

To be invisible. Then I could check on Siua and Ziggy to see what they were saying about me.

Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Jesus. So I could ask him to get me out.

How’s life in France?

Agen is alright. I can speak a little bit of French, enough to get around. I miss my mum, who lives in Christchurch. We were there when the earthquake happened. It was pretty scary but our house was okay.

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Rugby World.

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