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Could the might of the Six Nations help tsunami-hit Tonga?

THE MIGHT of the Six Nations is being called upon to help a small island nation recover from a devastating tsunami.

Ahead of the tournament kicking off next weekend, teams and their governing bodies are being urged to support fundraising efforts for Tongans, whose homes and livelihoods have been left in ruins.

Three people, including one British national, were killed when an underwater volcano erupted, sending waves more than a metre huge crashing in to the islands earlier this month.

An estimated 80 per cent of the 105,000 people who live in Tonga have been affected in some way by the disaster, which not only destroyed infrastructure and homes but contaminated water supplies with falling ash.

HeraldScotland:

Rugby fans in New Zealand and Australia have contributed to fundraisers for the nation, which is due to take part in the rugby league world cup later this year.

Now Alyn Smith MP, the SNP’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman, has called on the Six Nations squads and their governing bodies to support the island nation too.

He has already contacted Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), and said the body has agreed to assess how it can contribute to the Tongan appeal, as well as help fans donate to the cause.

The MP for Stirling is now hoping that England, Wales, Ireland, Italy and France get behind the initiative too.

Speaking in a debate in the Commons this week, Conservative MP Richard Graham suggested that collections could be held at Six Nations matches, and the funds raised could be matched by the UK Government.

Junior Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford replied that she would be “more than happy to discuss…how rugby fans can help the people of Tonga.”

Mr Smith said the SNP would support such an initiative, and hoped that all governing bodies would get behind the plans.

READ MORE: Volcanic ash delays aid to Tonga as scale of damage emerges

He explained: “This was a devastating disaster, and my thoughts are of course with the victims and those who have suffered as a result of the volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami.

“It has been suggested that there is a positive role for the Six Nations Championship to play in helping to raise the funds needed to address the emergency situation and I support this call.

“I know from discussions with Scottish Rugby that work is already ongoing to assess what support the organisation can help to provide to Tonga – and I very much welcome this.”

HeraldScotland:

Mr Smith made the political point that so much fundraising would not be needed had the UK Government not cut its foreign aid budget, adding: ” This has severely hampered our ability to assist with tackling climate change, international development, and emergency response.

“There is a time and a place for making political points, that said it cannot be ignored that the UK government’s actions have serious consequences.”

He continued: ” With the Six Nations starting next month, the eyes of the world will be on each country’s governing bodies, the perfect opportunity to unite people across the globe in helping with the humanitarian crisis that Tonga has been left in.

“As much as I’m pleased Scottish Rugby is engaging in some really positive work to help the people of Tonga, I hope to see a Six Nations approach going forward to help answer the call, and I know that myself along with colleagues across the political spectrum will do whatever we can to support them.”

The SRU is understood to be in talks with the Tonga High Commission to find out what aid is needed, as well as speaking with the Tonga Rugby Union.

The practicalities of coordinating a Six Nations public campaign are also being assessed, the Herald understands.

At the moment fans who are keen to help are also being directed to the New Zealand Red Cross, which is providing a lot of support.

The rugby community across the world has been quick to support the small island nation renowned for its sporting talents.

Wasps player and Tongan national Malakai Fekitoa started his own fundraiser ,which has now gathered more than £50,000.

He had previously said he was concerned for his family after all power and communications were cut off, but last week confirmed he had managed to reach his mother and his relatives had survived the disaster.

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