The victory, in an ill-tempered one-off Test match at Le Havre’s Stade Oceane on Saturday, will go some way to avenging the shock 14-19 pool loss Les Bleus suffered at the hands of the South Sea Islanders at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
But France coach Philippe Saint-Andre will doubtless have much to pore over as his side failed to put away a Tongan team which featured a raft of players competing at a much lower club level than their French counterparts.
“It’s pleasing,” France skipper Thierry Dusautoir said of the win.
“We’ve erased what happened at the World Cup and we can move on to something else.
“We’re very happy, but the black mark was losing Yoann [Maestri to the red card],” he said of a game that saw both teams play virtually the entire second half with 14 men – after New Zealand referee Glen Jackson brandished two red cards, for Tonga prop Sona Taumalolo (who plays for Perpignan in the Top 14) and France lock Yoann Maestri after a punch-up.
Next Saturday’s match against South Africa, he added, “will be very tough physically but this match was good preparation for what awaits us.”
Tonga’s cause was not helped when scrumhalf Taniela Moa, who plays his club rugby at French side Pau, also saw yellow just before half-time for elbowing France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski in the face.
Tonga captain Nili Latu Langilangi added: “We were quite confident going into the match and got going, but they regularly put us on the backfoot thanks to a good scrum and their kicking game.
“If we could have better controlled these two areas it would have been tighter. And our indiscipline handed them some easy points.”