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Finau Maka returns to captain Tonga against France

Updated: September 29, 2011, 01:10


WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Flanker Finau Maka has returned from a rib injury to lead a Tonga team with four changes for its crucial Rugby World Cup match against France on Saturday.

Prop Kisi Pulu was the other change in the pack, while inside center Andrew Ma'ilei and winger Viliame Iongi have been restored to the starting lineup from the team which beat Japan 31-18 on Sept. 21 in Whangarei.

"I feel quite fresh, my last game was against Canada. I had a problem with my ribs,'' Maka said. "I've had two contact sessions during the lead up now, came through that OK.

"I think it's a good thing having 10 or 12 days off, feeling much fresher,'' he added. "We won the last game against Japan and that's good for confidence. We still believe in it. Everyone wants to win and to score four tries to qualify.''

Tonga needs to beat France and score four tries to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.

"A lot of things need to happen for us on Saturday and everyone knew what to expect, so for us we're ready as much as we can be,'' Tonga coach Isitolo Maka said. "We've been training well, straight after the game against Japan we had two days' rest, and got back into physical training and contact. Everything's been going well.''

Tonga needs a bonus-point win by more than seven points to qualify ahead of the French in Pool A, while hoping Canada does not get a shock win against New Zealand.

Failing that, Tonga is also vying with Canada for third place and automatic qualification for the 2015 World Cup.

The Tongans lost 41-10 to the All Blacks at Eden Park and then made 12 changes for Canada, but lost 25-20.

France has played poorly so far at the tournament, putting in two lackluster performances against Japan and Canada, and then losing 37-17 to New Zealand.

But Tonga's coach warns that France can shake off its bad form at any moment.

"I have a lot of respect for the French team, it doesn't matter who they put on the field they always do their best, for us it's not going to be easy,'' he said. "Whoever is playing, they have the French flair, they can beat anyone on their day. They can beat any team in the world, whether it's New Zealand or Australia, so for us we have to expect a really hard game.''

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Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, Viliame Iongi, Siale Piutau, Andrew Ma'ile, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Kurt Morath, Taniela Moa, Viliami Ma'afu, Finau Maka (captain), Sione Kalamafoni, Paino Hehea, Tukulua Lokotui, Kiki Pulu, Aleki Lutui, Soane Tonga'uiha. Reserves: Ephraim Taukafa, Alisona Taumalolo, Halani Aulika, Joseph Tu'ineau, Samiu Vahafolau, Thomas Palu, Alipate Fatafehi.

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