Tonga will send out the oldest team in Rugby World Cup history against Argentina on Sunday in a bid to stay in quarter-finals contention.
Tonga’s lineup will have an average age of 31 years, 38 days, surpassing the record held by Samoa, which had an average of 31 years, 4 days against the United States on September 20.
Argentina is fielding a first-time centre pairing of Jeronimo De La Fuente and Matias Moroni, who replace Juan Martin Hernandez and Marcelo Bosch, the starters in the two previous matches against New Zealand and Georgia.
The Tonga squad will also be the country’s most experienced at the World Cup, starting with 349 caps. That eclipses the record set in the win over Namibia on Tuesday.
Tonga made six changes following the Namibia win, and the lineup closely resembles the one which lost to Georgia 17-10 on the opening weekend.
Captain Nili Latu, Tonga’s most capped player, returns in place of double try-scorer Jack Ram, and five-eighth Kurt Morath, Tonga’s leading scorer, starts again.
Also back was winger Fetu’u Vainikolo, who has the national try-scoring record.
Following the 54-9 win over Georgia last Friday, Argentina has changed seven players, bringing back fit-again Guido Petti, fellow lock Tomas Lavanini, flanker Pablo Matera and No.8 Leonardo Senatore from the All Blacks game.
Tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera also earns his first start since he played in the first two games of the Rugby Championship then needed knee surgery.
He was in the reserves in the first two Pool C games, and his return restores Argentina’s best front row with captain and hooker Agustin Creevy and loosehead Marcos Ayerza.
With an average age of 26 years, 236 days, Argentina fields its youngest World Cup team since the 1999 quarter-finals loss to France.
Tonga side to play Argentina:
Vungakoto Lilo, Telusa Veainu, Siale Piutau, Sione Piukala, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Kurth Morath, Sonatane Takulua, Viliami Ma’afu, Nili Latu (capt), Sione Kalamafoni, Joe Tu’ineau, Tukulua Lokotui, Halani ‘Aulika, Elvis Taione, Soane Tonga’uiha.
Reserves: Aleki Lutui, Sona Taumalolo, Sila Puafisi, Sitiveni Mafi, Opeti Fonua, Samisoni Fisilau, Latiume Fosita, David Halaifonua.
Argentina side to play Tonga:
Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo, Leonardo Senatore, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Ramiro Herrera, Agustin Creevy (capt), Marcos Ayerza.
Reserves: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Matias Alemanno, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Horacio Agulla.