OSAKA, Oct 11 - Tonga captain Siale Piutau is aiming to celebrate his 34th birthday on Sunday with a victory on his final appearance for his country.
Weather permitting, centre Piutau and flanker Sione Kalamafoni, who is also retiring, will both make a record 12th Rugby World Cup appearance for the Sea Eagles against USA in Hanazono.
"I made the decision behind closed doors talking with my family and the coaches,” said Piutau, above. "Hanging up my international boots is something I’ve been contemplating.
"I’ve kept it in-house, but it's been three months away with the team and the kids are at an age now where I think it’s an important time to have a father-figure at home.
"I’m grateful for the opportunities the red jersey has given me and, to go out with the boys on my birthday, there’s no place I’d rather be.
Piutau, who intends to keep playing for Bristol Bears in the English Premiership, is retiring just before his younger brother, Charles, the former New Zealander, is eligible for Tonga.
"Obviously, the focus is with them - I don’t want it to be on myself - and I want to leave on a high. We haven’t won a game, the USA haven’t won a game, so both teams are quite desperate and it’s going to be a tough contest.
"The one thing I am excited about it is seeing the young boys coming through. I’ve always spoken about this World Cup hopefully inspiring a new generation and I will always be supporting them proudly."
Tonga coach Toutai Kefu said: "He has been a great servant to the game. When I came in as head coach he was the one I wanted to be captain.
"We would love to put him out with a win. He’s been our best player over the four weeks and leads from the front."
Kalamafoni, above, like Piutau, was part of the Tonga side that beat France in Wellington eight years ago. "I made the decision before I came to the World Cup,” said the Leicester Tigers player.
Compo de @officialTongaRU pour jouer les USA— Rugby World Cup (@RugbyWorldCupFR) October 11, 2019
3 changements ; ce sera le 12e match de RWC pour Sione Kalamafoni et Siale Piutau, soit un record pour le Tonga !
🗓 Dimanche 13 octobre
📍 #RWCHanazono pic.twitter.com/mjDVv4ImOz
Tonga have made three changes from the side that lost 23-21 against France in Kumamoto last Sunday, which dashed their hopes of making the last eight.
Wingers Atieli Pakalani and Viliami Lolohea replace Cooper Vuna and David Halaifonua, while prop Siosiua Halanukonuka makes his first start of RWC 2019 for Ma’afu Fia.
Tomorrow's captain's run at the stadium has been cancelled for both teams, but Tonga are keen to train indoors if it is possible.