Tonga v New Zealand (World Cup, Pool A)
Venue: Eden Park
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
All rugby eyes will be on the opening game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. 60,000 fans will cram Eden Park, 100,000 will be down town in Auckland City watching the game on seven huge screens, whilst millions of viewers world-wide will be glued to their TV's. It will be amazing!
The Tongan Sibu Tau war dance.
New Zealand is expected to win. Tonga has never come within shouting distance of the New Zealanders in three previous tests. History will repeat. For eighty minutes the All Blacks will be battered by a traditionally fierce Tongan defense that will only yield late in the game.
The Tongans will need to be careful. They cannot afford to lose players to yellow-red cards for indiscipline as they attempt to crash-tackle the Kiwis off their game. This team is more experienced that the one that defeated Fiji in the first Pacific Nations Cup and slightly more experienced that the side that drew one all with Fiji last month.
New Zealand coach Graham Henry has juggled his backline and selected a team more likely to stand up to the expected Tongan onslaught rather than his first choice players. Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams are there to take (and give) the big tackles. Expect Carter and McCaw to be replaced once the Black team is rolling.
It's going to be a great game and I expect New Zealand to win comfortably in the end. That won't disappoint the Tongan fans who will stream into Eden Park draped in red and who will leave in party mood.
24.10.2003 New Zealand 91-8 in Brisbane (World Cup, Pool D)
17.06.2000 New Zealand 102-0 in Albany
03.10.1999 New Zealand 45-9 in Bristol (World Cup, Pool B)
GWC Rugby Rankings
World Table-New Zealand 2nd, Tonga 14th
Oceania Table-New Zealand 1st, Tonga 4th
IRB Ranking Points
New Zealand 91.64, Tonga 71.17
Prediction: New Zealand by 40 points
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Isaia Toeava, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 James Cowan, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Richie McCaw, Capt. 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Alistair Williams,
4 BradleyThorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
16 Corey Flynn, 17 Benjamin Franks, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Cory Jane.
Head Coach: Graham Henry
15 Vunga Lilo, 14 Viliame Iongi, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Andrew Ma'ilei, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Kurt Morath,
9 Taniela Moa, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Finau Maka, Capt. 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joseph Tu'ineau, 4 Paino Hehea, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
16 Ephraim Taukafa, 17 Alisona Taumalolo, 18 Kisi Pulu, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Samiu Vahafolau, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Alipate Fatafehi.
Head Coach: 'Isitolo Maka