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Tonga's proposed ban on women's rugby angers critics

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) An order from Tonga's education ministry banning girls from playing rugby at the Pacific nation's only public high school has been condemned by Tongan community leaders and a high-profile Olympic champion.

A letter signed by Education Minister Penisimani Fifita told staff at Tonga High School in the capital Nukualofa that girls should not play rugby or take part in boxing to "preserve the dignity of Tongan women and hold on to Tongan cultural values."

After the directive attracted widespread criticism, Chief Education Officer Manu'Akau'ola said it was not culturally motivated, but reflected concern students had missed too much school because of Cyclone Geta which recently struck Tonga, causing extensive damage.