9 Sep 2010

Tonga wanting credibility in world cup opener as one year countdown begins

12:00 pm on 9 September 2010

Today marks 365 days until the opening match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup between New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park.

The Ikale Tahi have struggled in recent years and lost all three of their matches during June's Pacific Nations Cup.

Head coach Isotolo Maka, a former All Black himself, says Tonga are a young side and admits having the All Blacks and France in their pool is a daunting challenge.

"It's very crucial for us, especially the first game against New Zealand. We don't want to embarrass ourselves but we will give it our best shot. We haven't done well since after the World Cup 2007 but hopefully we can start building from this year until next year."

Isotolo Maka says for the sake of international rugby, proposed changes to eligibility laws, that would allow the likes of former All Blacks Doug Howlett and Sione Lauaki to represent Tonga at next year's tournament, can't come soon enough.