If Tonga want to make the second round for the first time they'll have to cause a major upset.

Team bio:
World Cup Appearances: 5
2007 World Cup result: 3rd in pool
Best-ever RWC: Group stages
IRB Ranking: 12
Head Coach: Quddus Fielea.
Key player: Finau Maka. Tonga have New Zealand and European-hardened players and if the captain can inspire, the Tongans will be a handful.

Among the qualities you'd want going into a World Cup would be a settled, content squad, right?

So did the Tongans dodge a bullet when they opted not to make a late move and include former captain Nili Latu for this campaign?


The former Bay of Plenty flanker led Tonga at the 2007 cup, as an aggressive, committed leader with a gleaming dome. He made a significant impact as the Tongans proved to be spirited contributors to pool A.

They beat the United States 25-15, then gained South Pacific bragging rights with a 19-15 win over the Samoans in Montpellier.

South Africa didn't scare them either, only losing 30-25 before England beat them 36-20 en route to their final against the Springboks.

Latu was top value and, despite being absent for a while, coach Isitolo Maka had wanted him in this time.

However Latu had ruffled official feathers - evidently he fell from grace for having the cheek to seek more money for the players - and when his selection was mooted, chairman Bob Tuckey resigned last week in anticipated protest.

In the end, the former Blues forward Maka didn't include Latu once he'd received instruction from above - as you do.

The union's new chairman, Rev Tevita Latailakepa, said the directors considered it not right to select Latu as he hadn't played any warm-up games.

Deputy chairman Aminiasi Kefu said the union had instructed Maka not to select him. Maka's response?


"At the end I'm just the coach, there are people above me."

But Maka has given the captaincy to his brother Finau Maka, the 34-year-old now plying his trade at Toulouse.

So what should be expected this time?

On opening night they have the All Blacks, so tick that as a win.

Just kidding, but if the Tongans are smart they'll take as much out of that contest as they can and view the rest of pool A with a keen eye.

They managed a 45-9 loss to the All Blacks in Bristol in 1999, but have had a couple of severe touch-ups since - 102-0 at Albany in 2000 and 91-7 in Brisbane in the 2003 cup.

It's a cliche, but no less true for that, that their opponents will be sore the following morning. They'll hit hard - but there will also be a question mark over their fitness.

There are a host of names familiar to Air New Zealand Cup and Super Rugby audiences - Chiefs hooker Aleki Lutui, now at Worcester; well-travelled halfback Taniela Moa; former Highlanders wing Fetu'u Vainikolo and centre Siale Piutau;North Harbour men of recent times Andrew Mailei and Vili Ma'afu; former Southland lock Joe Tuineau; Counties Manukau players Samisoni Fisilau and Siale Piutau and Otago prop Halani Aulika among them.

Canada and Japan will be in their sights, and the French won't be taking any liberties either, in Wellington in their last pool game.

Pool A
Friday September 9 v New Zealand, Eden Park (Auckland)
Wednesday September 14 v Canada, Northland Events Centre (Whangarei)
Wednesday September 21 v Japan, McLean Park (Napier)
Saturday October 1 v France, Wellington Regional Stadium (Wellington)