Tonga's Maka named despite injury

(Rugby News Service) Wednesday 7 September 2011
Tonga's Maka named despite injury
Finau Maka (L) is determined to face the All Blacks in RWC 2011's opener

AUCKLAND, 7 Sept. - Brotherly love took a back seat at the Tonga team announcement on Wednesday as coach Isitolo Maka and sibling flanker Finau Maka locked horns over the alleged fitness of the Tongan captain.

Coach Isitolo has named his brother as skipper in the Tonga team to take on New Zealand at Eden Park on Friday but then conceded Finau was far from a certain starter as he struggled to overcome an ankle injury.

"We have to finalise it tomorrow," he said, alluding to a last-minute fitness test.

Finau clearly was not content with his coach's pessimism and interrupted the press conference to confidently declare he was a certain starter for the opening match of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

"I'll play," he said.

The signs look ominous though, with Finau forced to train separately from the squad on Tuesday after suffering what he described as a "twitch" in his achilles.

New partnership

Making a total of seven changes from the side that defeated Fiji in Tonga's last outing, coach Isitolo has settled on a new-look centre combination of Andrew Ma'ilei and Sukanaivalu Hufanga.

"We've looked at the speed of the New Zealand team and the way they play," he said.

"We're looking at the fittest guys that we've got. Probably we can match them fitness-wise."

The former All Black said paid no regard to New Zealand's team announcement earlier in the day because he believes his side have the ability to match the best in the world.

"I don't think we're worried about Sonny Bill (Williams) or Ma'a Nonu," Isitolo said. "We just have faith in the players that we've got." 

Taufa'ao Filise has been named at prop after a four-year absence from the national team. His last appearance for the the 'Ikale Tahi' (Sea Eagles) came against England at Rugby World Cup 2007.

RNS eds/omg/sg