Former Toulouse enforcer Finau Maka, the probable captain of Tonga in this year's World Cup, has signed for French fifth division club Pamiers.
"It'll be a new challenge for me to see rugby at Federale Three level," acknowledged the 34-year-old, who signed from Pro D2 outfit Aix-en-Provence.
"I signed for one year and will hope to get to Federale Two next season."
For Maka, who played for Toulouse from 2001-10 winning European Cup titles in 2003, 2005 and 2010 and the French league in 2008, the level will certainly be a step down from the heights of the World Cup, top-flight French and Euro rugby.
Pamiers play in pool seven of Federale Three, the fifth division, with the Top 14 and Pro D2 the highest, professional divisions.
The club has been drawn against Saverdun, Saint Paul les Dax, Bassin d'Arcachon, Nogaro, Libourne, Mugron, Biscarosse, Mauvezin and Habas for the 2011-12 season.
The club said that the "travel will risk being a little longer", the furthest away trip being a 374km hike to Biscarosse on the Atlantic coast.
The season opener comes at home against Libourne, but the Saverdun derby falls on November 6, a game Maka should be available for, with the World Cup running from September 9 until October 23.
Maka, brother of Tonga coach and ex-All Black Isotolo Maka, was a latecomer to international rugby, only making his international debut at the age of 30 at the 2007 World Cup in France.
He had qualified for Les Bleus through residency in time for the 2007 tournament, but was spurned by then-coach Bernard Laporte, and so turned to Tonga, from where he had moved to New Zealand as a child and spent fours seasons in the Super 14.
As it turned out, Maka scored the opening try in his team's first game against the USA, and also played against Samoa, South Africa and England, establishing himself and his fellow combative Tongan back row forwards as one of the stand-out units of the tournament.
An imposing figure, the No.8 enjoyed some repute during that tournament not only for his impact on the pitch but his large afro hairstyle, which has since been shorn.
Maka's life in Toulouse was disrupted last year after his involvement in a well-publicised court case during which he spent 24 hours in police custody.
He was eventually found not guilty by a Toulouse court on charges of exploiting a Tunisian immigrant who lived in a shed in his garden and worked for him illegally.
Maka was accused of lodging the illegal resident in unacceptable conditions, employing a foreigner with no legal papers and forcing him to work on the black.
But the Tongan international had denied the charges, saying he had acted out of charity in offering the destitute Tunisian work and board.
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