PREVIEW: New Zealand v Tonga

(Image Credit - RLWC2017.com)

New Zealand and Tonga both have two wins from two and whoever wins the crunch clash will finish top of Group B.

The Kiwis put in possibly the best performance that we have seen from any team at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup yet as they battered Scotland 74-6 in Christchurch last Saturday.

Meanwhile, Tonga put in another remarkable display last weekend as they eased past fellow Pacific Islanders 32-18 in Hamilton.

Ahead of the World Cup getting underway, a lot of people were saying that New Zealand would struggle in the tournament due to a couple of players selecting other allegiances, including Jason Taumalolo, who will pull on the red Tonga jersey on Saturday. Tonga have seven players in their squad who have previously played for New Zealand.

But, the Kiwis have gone the opposite way and have been one of the best performing teams in the tournament so far with their great attack and solid defence.

Tonga named a highly talented squad for the tournament this year and were expected to do well and, they haven’t let anyone down.

The Tongans have eased past Scotland and Samoa in their first two games and have scored 82 points, conceding just 22.

New Zealand have thrashed Samoa and Scotland and have posted 112 points and have only conceded 14 points.

So overall, there isn’t much separating the sides but the game on Saturday is going to be a thriller.

KEY BATTLE

There is one key battle that stands-out above the rest for this crunch clash and that is between New Zealand captain Adam Blair and Tonga ace Jason Taumalolo. The latter has been sensational in this World Cup but left the New Zealand squad to play for Tonga, despite originally being selected by the Kiwis.

It is well known that Blair is a very passionate New Zealander so will he try to let Taumalolo know physically that he made the wrong choice to switch allegiance? Or will Taumalolo show his class and get the better of Blair? It is certainly going to be an interesting battle and there is going to be a couple of individual big hits between the loose forwards.

ONES TO WATCH

There are quite a few brilliant individuals to watch by keep an eye out for Jordan Rapana of New Zealand. The 28-year-old scores tries for fun, having scored 52 tries in 71 appearances for Canberra Raiders since 2014 and always causes problems to the opposition.

Michael Jennings has been one of the best players in the tournament so far, scoring five tries already. The 29-year-old has previously represented Australia and New South Wales and is a fantastic centre. He has lethal footwork and a great step.

THE TEAMS

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

TONGA: 1. William Hopoate, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. David Fusitua, 6. Tuimoala Lolohea, 7. Ata Hingano, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Sione Katoa, 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Sika Manu, 13. Jason Taumalolo. Subs: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Sam Moa, 16. Peni Terepo, 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila. Reserves: 18. Mahe Fonua, 19. Manu Vatuvei, 20. Ukuma Ta’ai, 21. Tevita Pangai Junior.

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee – Gerard Sutton, Touch Judges – Chris Butler & Mark Craven, Video Referee – Steve Chiddy.

THE FAVOURITE

New Zealand are the slight favourites to win the game but this is probably the closest game yet at the World Cup because Tonga boast a really good squad this time around and loverugbyleague.com predicts New Zealand by 12 points.

You can watch the game LIVE on Premier Sports at 4am on Saturday 11 November.

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

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