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Tuesday 20 September 2011 | Published in Regional


Japan has brought its top team back to field for tonights match against Tonga, including its Cook Islands champion Ryan Nicholas.

Brave Blossoms coach and All Blacks legend John Kirwan has reinstated much of the team that pushed the French in their Rugby World Cup opener after resting them during the New Zealand clash on Thursday.

Nicholas will return to the Blossoms midfield against Tonga in Whangarei for tonights match, which kicks off at 9.30pm Cook Islands time.

Tonga, likewise, has restored much of its team from its opening match against New Zealand as it hunts for its first win in the World Cup.

A slew of Cook Islands people will be cheering on the Japanese and Nicholas from the stands at Whangarei, including Nicholass father and some of his brothers.

Back at home, he has some support in Nikao with his step-mother and Rarotongan family watching over the airwaves.

Darlene Nicholas, who is married to Ryans father Philip, will be backing the Brave Blossoms from her Rarotongan home.

Last week, Darlene said it was sometimes nerve-wracking to watch Nicholas during play.

Its tough to watch knowing that each time he gets the ball theres a tackler waiting the crunch him, she said.

Darlene said Nicholass first game against France was very physical and left the 194-kilogram midfielder feeling sore afterwards.

He had a bruising game, he was everywhere in attack and defence... it took a toll on his body, as you can imagine, she said.

Blossoms blindside flanker Itaru Taniguchi said the team was ready to play a tough, physical match against the Tongans tonight.

And rather than feel downtrodden by their 7-83 loss to New Zealand, Taniguchi said the team had been strengthened by the game.

After the pressure the All Blacks put us under, weve got absolutely nothing to be afraid of, Taniguchi said in the New Zealand Herald.

While the Tongans are a good side, theyre nowhere near the level of the All Blacks.