France meets Tonga in an important Pool C match at Kumamoto Stadium, Kumamoto City on Sunday, 6 October. Kick-Off is at 16:45 local (03:45 ET). The match may be viewed in the U.S. live on NBCSN or on-demand on NBC Sports Gold and on TSN channels 1 and 4 in Canada.
France has a 2-0 record with 9 points and trail England by a point in the standings. Argentina is another Pool C contender with a 1-1 record and 6 points.
France opened the RWC with a 23-21 win over Argentina and followed with a 33-9 win over the USA. Tonga lost 35-3 against England and then 28-12 to Argentina. France need a bonus point win against Tonga as they face England next on 12 October. Argentina, meanwhile has matches against England the preceding day and conclude pool play against the USA on Wednesday. Tonga finishes against the USA on Sunday 13 October, with both teams seeking a win.
France Head Coach Jacques Brunel has made 11 changes in his starters for the match against Tonga with only Camille Chat, Paul Gabrillagues, Sofiane Gitoune and Alivereti Raka retaining their starting positions.
The team will be captained by loosehead prop Jefferson Poirot. He joins hooker Camille Chat, and tighthead prop Rabah Slimani in the front-row. Paul Gabrillagues pairs with Sebastién Vaha’amahina at lock, with a new back row of flankers Wenceslas Lauret and Charles Ollivon with Gregorie Alldritt at No.8.
The halfback combination has changed with Baptiste Serin and Romain Ntamack at scrum-half and flyhalf, respectively. Sofiane Guitoune returns at inside center with Virimi Vakatawa outside. In the back three, Alivereti Raka returns on the left-wing, while Damian Penaud is on the right and Maxime Medard at fullback.
France is favored in the match, however, Argentina will be hoping for an upset.
France fly-half Romain Ntamack indicated that his team is refusing to look back to the last time they met Tonga in the Rugby World Cup when the Pacific Islanders defeated Les Bleus 19-14 in Wellington in 2011, one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
Tonga Head Coach Toutai Kefu has made two changes in his starters in their loss to Argentina for the match against Les Blues. Ma’afu Fia replaces Ben Tameifuna at tighthead prop, while Cooper Vuna replaces Viliami Lolohea on the right wing.
Tonga has performed well in losses to England and to Argentina. They are a physical team and should they gain early momentum, they could be a dangerous opponent for France.
France: 1 Jefferson Poirot (capt.), 2 Camille Chat, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 5 Sebastién Vaha’amahina, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Gregorie Alldritt, 9 Baptiste Serin, 10 Romain Ntamack, 11 Alivereti Raka, 12 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 14 Damian Penaud, 15 Maxime Medard 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Pierre-Louis Barassi
Tonga: 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 4 Sam Lousi, 5 Halaleva Fifita, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Zane Kapeli, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 10 James Faiva, 11 David Halaifonua, 12 Siale Piutau (capt.), 13 Malietoa Hingano, 14 Cooper Vuna, 15 Telusa Veainu 16 Sosefo Sakalia, 17 Vunipola Fifita, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Latiume Fosita, 23 Atieli Pakalani
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistants: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Matthew Carly (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
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