Kiwis v Tonga highlights. Video / Sky Sport
It’s an international rugby league double-header at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland today as New Zealand’s men’s and women’s teams take on Tonga.
Why should I watch?
Besides the fact that these are the first rugby league test matches to be played in New Zealand for years, the rivalry and style of play associated with all four of the teams on display will no doubt make for an entertaining spectacle.
That, and the fact that Mount Smart Stadium is sold out – this will be the first time the Kiwis will play in front of a capacity crowd since the 1988 Rugby League World Cup final at Auckland’s Eden Park; while the Kiwi Ferns are hoping to achieve a new world-record crowd attendance for a women’s rugby league match, which currently sits at 18,000. So if you have tickets, make sure you get there for game one!
Also – remember the 2017 World Cup when Tongan fans put Kiwis fans to shame by blanketing Hamilton’s FMG Stadium in red and white; while singing their side to a monumental and thrilling upset victory? Yeah, that should be reason enough.
The next big thing?
One thing you’ll immediately notice about the Kiwis team is the absence of Shaun Johnson, plus a host of his fellow-Warriors teammates. Cue Dylan Brown.
Brown has already been compared to Benji Marshall and is seen as the playmaker New Zealand can build around for the next decade.
It’s staggering stuff, but not without foundation as Brown is one of the most exciting local prospects in years.
In 14 games for the Parramatta Eels this season he’s recorded seven tries, eight try assists and 12 line breaks, and is averaging almost 130 running metres a week.
As well as his test debut, tomorrow is also an audition for a World Cup spot, as Brown aims to stay ahead in the halves pecking order, before Maguire’s final squad is revealed in October.
Warriors captain leads the way
While this Tongan team comes minus its English Super League and State of Origin stars, it’s still one packed with talent.
New Zealand Warriors captain Addin Fonua-Blake is one of three former Kiwis players lining up to face their former teammates on Saturday and is no doubt one of the most formidable.
Jason Taumalolo, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Kotoni Staggs and Sione Katoa join Fonua-Blake as representatives from the side that also famously defeated Australia 16-12 in 2019.
Also, don’t forget to watch out for Haumole Olakau’atu, who turned down the opportunity to pull on the NSW jumper to represent his country this weekend.
An important showcase for the women’s game
The Kiwi Ferns are in the midst of their build-up for the World Cup in England in November so this test, as well as the upcoming NRLW season, acts as a crucial litmus test for where the team currently stands – after two years on the sidelines.
Watch out for Amy Turner who previously lined up for the Australian rugby se
…. to be continued
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