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Professional rugby league is back on New Zealand soil! What better way to start it as New Zealand takes on the rising nation that is Tonga on a Saturday evening in Auckland? Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 3.20pm AEST.
Before a ball is kicked or a tackle is made, the crowd in Auckland will provide an electrifying atmosphere when both teams do their respective war cries. There will be plenty of emotion involved during this contest, and so the senior players amongst both teams must ensure that their players keep their emotions in check in order not to concede soft penalties or go down a man temporarily.
Despite Te Maire Martin’s form at fullback for the Brisbane Broncos since his second coming in rugby league this year, coach Michael Maguire has opted for Roosters superstar Joseph Manu at fullback. In Manu’s sole game at fullback this year for the Roosters, he tried too hard to create chances out of nothing and it’s important he doesn’t fall into this trap with the halves pairing of Dylan Brown and Jahrohme Hughes alongside him. After his move to play State of Origin was blocked last year, Ronaldo Mulitalo will don the Kiwi jersey, named on the wing.
The forward pack is led by veteran and current skipper Jesse Bromwich, with Brandon Smith named at hooker and Penrith enforcer James Fisher-Harris also providing a huge presence in the Kiwis forwards lineup. And if you thought the Kiwis lineup was stacked, their bench possesses the duo of Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Moses Leota while Kieran Foran brings in his experience to the Kiwis.
Tonga’s young and inexperienced back five is spearheaded by the uncapped Tolutau Koula at fullback, with only Moses Suli having played over 75 first grade rugby league games. The inexperience continues amongst the rest of the backline as 20 year old Talatau Amone is named at halfback. Tonga’s strength lies in their forward pack, led by skipper Siosiua Taukeiauho, Rabbitohs second rower Keaon Koloamatangi and enforcer Jason Taumalolo at lock.
There’s no doubt that Tonga possesses plenty of talent in their player pool and have named a strong team despite the absence of Daniel Tupou and Siosifa Talakai (both on Origin duty for New South Wales).
However, there is a huge gap between Tonga and New Zealand when it comes to first grade and international appearances.
Add in the in-form halves pairing that New Zealand possess and Tonga have a lot on their plate to nullify if they are to repeat their 2017 Rugby League World Cup victory. Tonga will fight, but it’ll be too much for them as the game goes on.
New Zealand by 8+.
1. Joseph Manu, 2. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 3. Marata Niukore, 4. Peta Hiku, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Isaiah Papalii, 12. Kenny Bromwich, 13. Joseph Tapine, 14. Kieran Foran, 15. Moses Leota, 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17. Briton Nikora
1. Tolotau Koula, 2. Christian Tuipulotu, 3. Will Penisini, 4. Moses Suli, 5. Sione Katoa, 6. Kotoni Staggs, 7. Talatau Amone, 8. Addin Fonua-Blake, 10. Siliva Havili, 11. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 12.Sitili Tupouniua, 13. Keaon Koloamatangi, 14. Jason Taumalolo, 15. Soni Luke, 16. Haumole Olakau’atu, 17. Tevita Tatola, 18. Moeaki Fotuaika,