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Tonga “focuses” on World Cup qualifiers – coach

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Tonga coach Toutai Kefu has targeted a maiden playoffs berth for the Pacific island nation at the Rugby World Cup despite the team being pooled in what looms as the toughest group at the tournament in Japan.

Tonga have been drawn with England, France, Argentina and the United States in Pool C, with only the top two teams to advance to the quarter-finals.

Former Australia loose forward Kefu was aiming high despite 15th-ranked Tonga’s shaky leadup form, which has included a loss to Fiji at Eden Park last Saturday after defeats to Samoa and Japan at the Pacific Nations Cup.

“I’m fixated on making the playoffs,” Kefu told reporters in Hamilton, New Zealand, after naming his 31-man World Cup squad.

“We need to win three games for that.

“We’re in a tough pool, there’s no doubt about it. We just need to get together and believe in what we’re doing, and believe that we can make it. And I certainly think we can.”

Tonga meet world champions New Zealand in a final warmup in Hamilton on Saturday before they head to Japan where they face England in their World Cup opener at Sapporo on Sept. 22.

Squad:

Forwards – Siegfried ‘Fisiihoi, Vunipola Fifita, Latu ‘Talakai, Paula ‘Ngauamo, Sosefo ‘Sakalia, Siua Maile, Siua ‘Halanukonuka, Ma’afu Fia, Ben Tameifuna, Sam Lousi, Leva Fifita, Sitiveni Mafi, Sione Kalamafoni, Maama ‘Vaipulu, Fotu ‘Lokotui, Zane ‘Kapeli, Dan Faleafa, Nasi Manu

Backs – Sonatane Takulua, Leon ‘Fukofuka, Samisoni Fisilau, Kurt Morath, James ‘Faiva, Siale Piutau, Malietoa Hingano, Nafi Tuitavake, Atieli Pakalani, David Halaifonua, Viliami Lolohea, Cooper Vuna, Telusa Veainu.

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