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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Kiwis represent a much stiffer task for Tonga

Pacific Islanders have yet to meet a side of Kiwis' calibre

Shaun Johnson of New Zealand
1 of 1

Premier Sports, From 4am Saturday

If New Zealand were supposed to have been rocked by the defection of eight players to Tonga prior to the Rugby League World Cup, they have yet to show it.

The Kiwis have sauntered to group victories over Samoa (38-8) and Scotland (74-6) in their opening bouts which has seen them usurp England as second-favourites behind Australia to win the title.

Next up for David Kidwell's men is a group-decider with Tonga - a game that has taken on more meaning than just group supremacy given the players who have switched their allegiances will come up against their former team-mates.

Pacific islanders Tonga have lived up to the pre-tournament hype with two easy victories of their own, but the challenge of facing the Kiwis in their own back yard is a much stiffer proposition than the one posed by Samoa or the Scots.

For all their power and athleticism, the Tongans have yet to show they have the playmakers required to unpick a world-class outfit - something the Kiwis certainly do possess.

Shaun Johnson became New Zealand's record pointscorer in the demolition of Scotland and his guile and poise will be crucial against the Tongans.

The handicap line indicates that bookmakers may be buying into Tongan hype and New Zealand look to have been underestimated by bookmakers who have dipped below the ten-point mark.

Scotland do battle with Samoa to avoid the ignominy of propping up Group B but look set for another heavy defeat.

The Scots, who will be without three players after they were sent home from the tournament, are given a 36-point start by the layers.

New Zealand -9.5
3pts 4-5 Paddy Power

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The Kiwis have sauntered to group victories over Samoa (38-8) and Scotland (74-6) in their opening bouts
E.W. Terms
Sky bet