CHINNOR RFC Thame have announced the signing of former Tonga international Soane Tonga’uiha as player-coach.
The 38-year-old adds 130kg to the front row, bolstering their pack for the 2020/21 National League 1 season.
As Forwards Coach, Tonga’uiha completes Chinnor’s coaching team with Director of Rugby, Richard Thorpe, Attack Coach, Craig Hampson and Backs Coach, Delon Armitage.
He joins the Club from Championship side Ampthill, but the prop is best known for his time with Northampton Saints, where he made 184 appearances during a seven-year spell at Franklin’s Gardens.
Tonga’uiha played age group rugby for New Zealand, before going on to win 18 caps for his native Tonga, for whom he represented at the 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
Soane, whose previous clubs include Auckland, Bedford, Racing Metro, Oyonnax and Bristol, also joins Chinnor’s Community Department – which is run by Community Group – as a Community Coach.
The loose-head who runs his own business – the Tonga’uiha Rugby Academy – is looking forward to helping the Club on and off the pitch.
He said: “It’s great to be at Chinnor RFC Thame. I wanted to join partly because of the history of the Club. I also played here a couple of years ago for Ampthill and it’s a good set-up. Obviously with Richard Thorpe as Director of Rugby and the coaching staff here, it’s quite an exciting time for the Club and the area. When Thorpey called me, it sounded like a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to being a part of this journey.”
Soane added: “I’ll be a player-coach, but I still enjoy playing. I’m looking forward to mixing with the boys and I’d like to pass on any experience I have to the rest of the squad. I run my own business which works with juniors, I started that two years ago, and I’m enjoying that. There’s a great mini and juniors section at the Club, so working with the Community Department all ties in well with what I’m doing.”
Chinnor RFC Thame Director of Rugby, Richard Thorpe said: “I’m delighted to formally announce the appointment of Soane as player-coach. Chinnor now boasts hundreds of Premiership games and dozens of international caps within its coaching team. We set our sights back in May on becoming a player-centred club, and having a player-coach with Soane’s experience will be invaluable in delivering this. He has already been a huge part of our pre-season sessions, and whilst he is still a formidable presence as a player, his technical knowledge and leadership will give our senior squad the support and development to take Chinnor to where we have the potential to be. It is also great for Soane to be working with our Community Department alongside our Head of Community, Matt Goode. This will make our offering even stronger and it shows our commitment to developing players of all ages at the Club and in our surrounding community.”