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09 Nov 2017 by TSZ

2017 Rugby League World Cup - New Zealand vs Tonga Match Preview

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The Lowdown

NEW ZEALAND

  • New Zealand blew away Scotland as they amassed 74 points and conceded just 6, a result that booked the Kiwis their place in the quarter-finals.
  • Having rotated his side against Scotland, David Kidwell reverts to his strongest side for this huge clash. Jason Nightingale, Peta Hiku, Te Maire Martin, Elijah Taylor, Kenny Bromwich and Addin Fonua-Blake all make way for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jordan Rapana, Kodi Nikorima, Tommy Leuluai, Simon Mannering and Isaac Liu.
  • New Zealand have now lost just one of their last 12 World Cup encounters. If they can extend that run in this game, they will head into the quarter-finals having topped Group B.

Head Coach: David Kidwell

Team: Tuivasa-Sheck; Watene-Zelezniak, Whare, Takairangi, Rapana; Nikorima, Johnson; Taupau, Leuluai, Waerea-Hargreaves, Mannering, Tapine, Blair

Bench: Asofa-Solomona, Packer, Liu, Levi

TONGA

  • Tonga qualified for their first ever World Cup quarter-final after they defeated Pacific Island rivals Samoa 32-18 in a bruising encounter last weekend.
  • Kristian Woolf makes just one change to the side that defeated Samoa with Konrad Hurrell returning to the centres in place of Solomone Kat.
  • Tonga have won their last four World Cup matches with their two in this competition seeing them progress to the knockout stages. A fifth consecutive World Cup win would see the Tongans top the group and give them plenty of confidence ahead of their quarter-final.

Head Coach: Kristian Woolf

Team: Hopoate; Tupou, Jennings, Hurrell, Fusitu'a; Lolohea, Hingano; Fifita, Katoa, Taukeiaho, Ma'u, Manu, Taumalolo

Bench: Havili, Moa, Terepo, Murdoch-Masila

Analysis - what to expect
In what is the most eagerly anticipated game of the weekend, New Zealand go toe-to-toe with Tonga with the winner finishing Group B at the top of the pile. There is plenty at stake for both nations even though they have already qualified for the quarter-finals as they seek to finish top of the group. There will be plenty of needle, especially with Jason Taumalolo set to face his ex-teammates after choosing to defect to Tonga on the eve of this tournament. New Zealand are eight point favourites heading into the game due to their superior halfbacks but it wouldn't be a surprise if Tonga can claim the win.

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