By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 4/11/13
Pacific nations Tonga and the Cook Islands will be looking to get their World Cup campaigns back on track when they meet in Leigh.
Both started with losses, to Scotland and the USA respectively, so it’s do or die stuff at the Leigh Sports Village. And with both teams boasting players with shared Tongan and Cook Islands heritage, this should be an emotional match-up.
David Fairleigh has made four changes to his Cook Islands team, hoping to spark them to life after the USA defeat and a heavy warm-up loss to New Zealand the week before. The Tomahawks shock should be a big wake-up call to the Cooks who will need to sort out their fragile defence.
Tonga was solid against Scotland and were only edged out by the tiniest of margins, two points, in the final stages. Still, it will be disappointing to the boys in red who were favoured in that game and seemed to have had it in the bag, with expectations on them to reach the quarter-finals.
A physical encounter punctured by strong running and heavy collisions will be the order of the day in this one. The Islander countries are playing for personal pride and will be eager to get one over their close Pacific neighbours.
Leigh Sports Village is the venue for this game, home of Championship club Leigh Centurions. The multi-sport enclosed stadium was where the grand finals for all the levels below the Super League were held this year, and is on track for a sell-out. Leigh is only hosting one World Cup match and more than 10,000 tickets in the 11,000 capacity venue have already been sold.
The little Lancashire town will be rocking on Tuesday night, with the stadium’s Whistling Wren Pub bound to have a great atmosphere.
The Leigh Journal has been giving the game blanket coverage, with the Tongan team really adopted by the Leigh locals. Anticipation is building in this small corner of English rugby league for a punishing battle.
For Tonga their flyers Daniel Tupou and Jorge Taufau will be important in providing punch out wide and attacking threats up the middle. Experienced props Brent Kite and Fui Fui Moi Moi will offer go forward while Glen Fis’iahi can be lethal coming from the back. Tonga have options across the park, from Konrad Hurrell to Skia Manu and Mickey Paea, and I’m expecting the Mate Ma’a to be too strong for the Cooks.
They have the edge in NRL experience, and a few more individual match-winners, so I’m predicting the Tongans to win this one by 12 points.
1. Drury Low
2. Chris Taripo
3. Brad Takairangi
4. Keith Lulia
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Jonathan Ford
7. Isaac John
8. Zane Tetevano
9. Daniel Fepuluai
10. Dylan Napa
11. Domnique Peyroux
12. Zeb Taia
13. Tinirau Arona
14. Hikule’o Malu
15. Joey Matapuku
16. Adam Tangata
17. Sam Mataora
Tonga still to announce team