PREVIEW: New Zealand v Scotland

(Image Credit - RLWC2017.com)

Scotland have a huge tough task of stopping an impressive New Zealand team in Christchurch on Saturday.

The Bravehearts heavily lost 50-4 to a very strong Tonga outfit last week but didn’t give up in the game and continued to throw the ball about and test Tonga.

Meanwhile, New Zealand eased past a decent Samoa team 38-8 in their opening game of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

David Kidwell has made seven changes to the Kiwis squad for their second game of the tournament, with seven fresh players coming into the 17-man team.

Dean Whare, Peta Hiku and Jaston Nightingale all come into the backline for New Zealand while Kenny Bromwich and Elijah Taylor come into the pack, with the latter at hooker and will play for the Kiwis for the first time for four years.

It hasn’t been plain-sailing for the Kiwis in the past week though, with centre Gerard Beale being ruled out for the rest of the tournament.

North Queensland Cowboys star Te Maire Martin also comes into the side at half-back and will play alongside Shaun Johnson so Martin could offer something different to Kodi Nikorima, who also played a blinder last week.

Scotland will be eager to impress the fans in Christchurch on Saturday though, with them having undersold themselves last week against Tonga.

Steve McCormack’s Scotland side are currently fourth in the world rankings and even held New Zealand to an 18-18 draw in the 2016 Four Nations at Workington Town’s Derwent Park last year, with Bravehearts captain Danny Brough playing a starring role in the game.

KEY BATTLE

There are going to be a number of battles in the backline in the game, with Scotland having a lot of exciting players in those positions while the Kiwis have a lot of NRL experience.

But the real battle will be between Scotland vice-captain Luke Douglas and New Zealand prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Douglas has had a massive year for St Helens and has cemented a starting role down in Justin Holbrook’s Saints outfit while Waerea-Hargreaves has been one of the best front-rowers in the NRL for a number of years now and the pair are both aggressive so it will be interesting to see how that battle pans out in the middle of the park.

ONES TO WATCH

Alex Walker is one of the more underrated players in the Scotland side this year but he has had a fantastic season in the Championship with London Broncos. He made his international debut in 2015 and is still only 22-years-old. He is an exciting full-back with pace to burn.

Many British Rugby League fans will be familiar with the one to watch for New Zealand and that is Peta Hiku. He spent a few of months playing for Warrington Wolves in 2017 and impressed while in England, scoring 10 tries in 11 games and is an explosive threequarter.

THE TEAMS

NEW ZEALAND: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. Jason Nightingale, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Brad Takairangi, 5. Peta Hiku, 6. Te Maire Martin, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Martin Taupau, 9. Elijah Taylor, 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11. Kenny Bromwich, 12. Joseph Tapine, 13. Adam Blair. Subs: 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 15. Russell Packer, 16. Addin Fonua-Blake, 17. Danny Levi. Reserves: 18. Tommy Leuluai, 19. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 20. Simon Mannering, 21. Jordan Rapana.

SCOTLAND: 1. Alex Walker, 2. Lewis Tierney, 3. Ben Hellewell, 4. Lachlan Stein, 5. Matty Russell, 6. Danny Brough, 7. Oscar Thomas, 8. Luke Douglas, 9. Danny Addy, 10. Ben Kavanagh, 11. Jarred Anderson, 12. Dale Ferguson, 13. James Bell. Subs: 14. Kane Bentley, 15. Sam Brooks, 16. Brandan Wilkinson, 17. Johnny Walker. Reserves: 18. Andrew Bentley, 19. Callum Phillips, 20. Shane Toal, 21. Frankie Mariano.

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee – Henry Perenara, Touch Judges – Belinda Sleeman & Chris McMillan, Video Referee – Steve Chiddy.

THE FAVOURITE

The Kiwis are favourites by a long way because they are third favourites to win the World Cup, but Scotland should not be taken for a joke because they play with a lot of pride and have a lot of talent. However, loverugbyleague.com predict New Zealand by 32 points.

You can watch the game LIVE on Premier Sports at 4am on Saturday 4 November.

How do you see the game going? Who will win? Let us know in the comments below.

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