Saints rugby stars including Chris Ashton and Ben Foden have been pictured in Tongan dress to raise money for team-mate Soane Tonga’uiha’s testimonial.
The 20st Tongan giant is using his testimonial season to raise money for his old Vaini Village School in Tonga, Kislingbury Primary School and Cancer research.
Tonga’uiha is now putting 25 unique framed signed copies of the photo up for auction, while mini reproductions will be on sale at his testimonial game at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday.
The mini versions of the photos cost £25 each and Tonga’uiha is hoping they will be a big hit with fans flocking to see a Saints All Star XV take on a South Sea Islanders XV that will hopefully include Leicester wing Alesana Tuilagi fresh from Saturday’s Premiership final.
The picture was taken and created by local freelance and Saints photographer Linda Dawson and Tonga’uiha is grateful for the collectors’ item she has produced.
Tonga’uiha said: “Linda did something similar for Tom Smith’s testimonial, when the players were dressed in kilts and I took part in that. She kindly offered her services to help out with my testimonial and my wife Lucy saw it as an opportunity to do something a bit different.
“It took a while for it to come together. Lucy and Linda have worked tirelessly over the last two weeks. Linda has been up late to get the boys positioned and looking just right.
“It looks awesome and they have created something memorable - there are not going to be any photos like that because three of the players won’t be here next season.
“We were trying to go for a war look as Tongans dressed before a battle, but we wanted to bring the friendly feel of the islands into the picture as well.”
The Saints players were pictured wearing sarongs and ‘lai’ – a big leaf necklace that is worn around the neck, though Ben Foden wore it as a skirt thanks to the players playing a joke on the England full-back.
It was the last time that Saints stars Roger Wilson, Ashton and James Downey were pictured together as all three are leaving the club in the summer.
One of the framed pictures will be auctioned on Sunday at the game, while the rest will be auctioned at Tonga’uiha’s golf day on July 12 at Harlestone Golf Club and at his testimonial dinner on September 19. Sunday’s game will see a host of stars taking part with current Franklin’s Gardens players Paul Diggin, Ryan Lamb, Mark Sorenson and Ryan Glynn playing alongside former Saints Chris Budgen, Nick Beal, Darren Fox, Paul Tupai, Matt Allen and Jon Phillips.
The Southern Sea Islanders side will include Saints player of the year and Samoan international George Pisi, Leicester lock Steve Mafi, Scarlets’ Fijian prop Deacan Manu, Junior Paramore, London Irish No.8 Chris Hala’ufia and Tonga captain Finau Maka.
Tonga’uiha said: “I am looking forward to the game as I’ve gone a couple of weeks without playing.
“The boys will do their best to entertain and score some tries.”
As well as the game there will be face-painting for children, a bouncy castle, Saints prop Brian Mujati will be selling his ‘Mooj on the Square’ beer, a hog roast and rugby coaching for youngsters plus a live band in the Rodber Suite after the game.
Gates open at noon, with a mini-tag tournament taking place before the match which kicks-off at 3pm.