'Big rugby fan' Haloti Ngata fired up to see match

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Chandler's Cross, England — Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is excited about the timing of the team's trip to London.

After practice Friday, Ngata plans to attend a Rugby World Cup match for the first time when Argentina and South Africa play for third place at The Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

"I'm a big rugby fan," he said Thursday. "I loved playing rugby when I was younger."

Growing up in Utah, Ngata said he played rugby through high school. His father, Solomone, helped increase his interest in the sport because he played, too.

"I watched him all the time when I was younger," Ngata said of his father, who died in 2002.

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Ngata's love of rugby drew the attention of London media. After his interview session, he did a photo shoot holding a rugby ball and a football before tossing the rugby ball with defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

Besides the U.S. team, Ngata likes New Zealand — the All Blacks — and Tonga, his family's native country.

Ngata, who's attending Friday's match with his wife and son, would've gone to the championship Saturday between New Zealand and Australia, but he said they probably wouldn't have made it back to the team's hotel before curfew.

Ngata said he ordered the World Cup on TV and watched as many matches as he could the past several weeks. Even though it's not regularly televised in the U.S., he said he'll search for games when available or watch them online.

One local reporter asked Ngata about the Tongan team's intimidating pre-match dance, which Ngata explained was a pre-war tradition. He doesn't expect it to catch on in the NFL.

"If there was a bunch of Polynesians, maybe," Ngata said.