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RLWC Preview: Scotland vs. Tonga

Dan Talintyre

SCO v TON

Tonga will look to kick off their highly anticipated World Cup campaign on a winning note when they take on Scotland this Sunday afternoon in Cairns.

Tipped by many to be the most likely threat to the Australia-New Zealand duopoly that has dominated international rugby league over the past few years, Tonga come in to this year’s tournament as the smallest geographical nation but potentially the biggest in terms of size with the likes of Jason Taumaolo, Andrew Fifita and even Manu Vatuvei.

It was the inclusion of Taumalolo and Fifita that left many fawning over the chances of Tonga at the World Cup, and Kristian Woolf will no doubt be wary of the expectations that are on his talented side. A good hit-out against Italy last week saw Tonga emerge with a win, and with good young halves in Tui Lolohea and Ata Hingano running the show, the Pacific powerhouse will be hoping that they can carry that over this weekend.

For Scotland, the Bravehearts return to the World Cup stage after a strong showing in 2013 that included beating this week’s opponents, Tonga, in a thrilling 26-24 encounter.

Their recent performances in the 2016 Four Nations showed that Brian McDermott’s side are far from a push-over — earning a deserved 18-18 draw against New Zealand — but they find themselves in the Group of Death here which will make their chances at qualifying for the knockout rounds difficult. With three of New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga going through to the playoffs, Scotland will need to win at least one game, and a clash against Tonga to kick off the tournament will present as good a chance as any.
 

Group B: Scotland vs. Tonga

MATCH DETAILS

Date — Sunday, October 29, 2017

Time — 5:15pm AEDT

Venue — Barlow Park, Cairns (AUS)

 

LIVE STREAM AND TV INFORMATION

Live Stream — Channel 7’s https://7live.com.au/ (Australia only)

TV — Click here for a full country-by-country list of TV broadcasts.

 

TEAM NEWS

Scotland — 1. Lewis Tierney 2. Matthew Russell 3. Ben Hellewel 4. Lachlan Stein 5. Will Oakes 6. Danny Brough 7. Danny Addy 8. Luke Douglas 9. Kane Bentley 10. Ben Kanavagh 11. Frankie Mariano 12. Dale Ferguson 13. James Bell (Interchange: 14. Callum Phillips 15. Andrew Bentley 16. Sam Brooks 17. Johnny Walker) — Coach: Steve McCormack

Reserves: 18. Alex Walker 19. Jarred Anderson 20. Kieran Moran 21. Brandon Wilkinson

Tonga — 1. Will Hopoate 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Michael Jennings 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Tui Lolohea 7. Ata Hingano 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Siliva Havili 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Sika Manu 13. Jason Taumalolo (Interchange: 14. Sione Katoa 15. Sam Moa 16. Peni Terepo 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila) — Coach: Kristian Woolf

Reserves: 18. Joe Ofagengaue 19. Solomone Kata 20. David Fusitua 21. Samisoni Langi

 

RLWC STANDINGS — POOL B

 

Played

Won

Lost

F/A

Points

New Zealand

-

-

-

-

-

Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

Tonga

-

-

-

-

-

Samoa

-

-

-

-

-

 

HISTORY

Tonga and Scotland have faced off on two occasions in history, with each side earning a win. Their last clash in the 2013 World Cup saw Scotland produce a thrilling upset 26-24 win, while their encounter at the 2008 World Cup saw Tonga thrash the Bravehearts 48-0. From the two teams that day, only a young Michael Jennings remains in the squad.

 

PLAYER TO FOLLOW — Tui Lolohea, Tonga

Struggling to find form at the Warriors before securing a mid-season switch to Wests Tigers, Tuimoala Lolohea comes in to the tournament in form and off the back of a good few months in the halves — a position he’ll play for Tonga at the World Cup. Moved around the back-line throughout his young career, Lolohea seemingly thrived being in the one position for a long spell, with his dynamic running game causing problems for his opponents on more than one occasion. Uniting in the halves with close friend Ata Hingano, Lolohea might just be the difference maker for Tonga in this year’s World Cup — linking a powerful forward pack with a number of superb finishers in the backs. Lolohea has already featured at the World Cup in his career (for New Zealand), but a more mature approach this time around should hold him and Tonga in good stead.

 

PREDICTION

There’s a lot of hype around Tonga heading in to the tournament, and for good reason. An enormous forward pack is complemented with some dynamic backs, which will cause a number of teams problems throughout the tournament. We’re not so sure they’ll be the free-flowing, all-enamoring unit that many are expecting straight away, but they should have more than enough to run over Scotland in this one. Tonga by 16.

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