Maka back for mission impossible
Captain Finau Maka has been recalled to the Tonga team for their final World Cup Pool A match against France on Saturday, when they are facing a mountainous task to reach the quarterfinals.
Maka, a long-time player in the French Top 14, is one of four changes his brother Isitolo made to the team that beat Japan 31-18 last week.
Maka takes over from Sione Vaiomo'unga at openside flank, the only other change in the pack being the experienced Kisi Pulu going at tighthead instead of Taufa'ao Filise.
There are also two changes in the backs, Viliame Iongi coming in for Fetu'u Vainikolo on the right wing and Andrew Ma'ilei taking over a centre berth from Alipate Fatafehi, who drops to the bench.
Aside from the Japan victory, Tonga went down to Canada and the All Blacks in Pool A, but can mathematically still make it through to the last eight if they score four tries and win by more than seven points, denying France a bonus point.
The French grabbed a maximum 10 points from their openers against Japan and Canada, but were then soundly beaten 37-17 by New Zealand.
They need just a point in Wellington to move into the knock-out phase of the tournament behind the unbeaten All Blacks, who play Canada on Sunday.
Captain Maka admitted that a decade spent playing with four-time European champions Toulouse would help him on Saturday.
"To me it's a good thing just knowing their danger players and where their weaknesses are. We know quite a lot about their players so it helps a lot," Maka said, pinpointing the midfield as France's main weak point.
"I think maybe their centres [Maxime Mermoz and Aurelien Rougerie] are quite weak, just because I think Rougerie's not a centre, and he and Maxime haven't played together for a long time.
"Also maybe their front row [Jean-Baptiste Poux, William Servat and Luc Ducalcon]. We can target their scrum."
Coach Maka added: "The boys have been training well. Straight after the game against Japan [on September 21] we had two days of rest and then got back into pretty physical training, contact, and rest on Sunday.
"Everything has been going well. We're ready, as much as we can be," he said, adding that he had respect for France no matter what team was put out under counterpart Marc Lievremont's rotation policy.
"It doesn't matter who they put on the field they always do their best," he said.
"For us it's not going to be easy. Whether they change or whoever is playing, they are the French team and they have the French flair. They can beat anyone on their day."
Tonga: 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Viliame Iongi, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Andrew Ma'ilei, 11 Sukanaivalu Hufanga, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Finau Maka (captain), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Paino Hehea, 4 Tukulua Lokotui, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ephraim Taukafa, 17 Alisona Taumalolo, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Joseph Tuineau, 20 Samiu Vahafolau, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Alipate Fatafehi.
Date: Saturday, October 1
Venue: Regional Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 18.00 (05.00 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)