RLWC Round 3: Kiwis Brace for Tongan Challenge in Vital Clash

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New Zealand v Scotland - 2017 Rugby League World Cup
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 04: Adam Blair of the Kiwis (C) and his team mates perform the Haka prior to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between the New Zealand Kiwis and Scotland at AMI Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

It is the penultimate round of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. The final round robin games will be interesting to watch, as final playoff spots are confirmed. RLWC Round 3 has some very exciting games scheduled, as Kiwis brace for Tongan challenge in a vital clash. This will be our ‘game of the week’.

Last weekend’s match between Samoa and Tonga lived up to expectation, with its hits and high tension. Fans packed out the Hamilton stadium, showing the passion involved. This weekend should be no different, although a slightly more enticing game–impacting on the final standings.

Vital as Kiwis brace for a Tongan challenge like never before.

Samoa v Tonga - 2017 Rugby League World Cup
Tonga celebrate a try to Ben Murdoch-Masila during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Samoa and Tonga at Waikato Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

However there are many other games to look forward to. Fiji Bati take on Italy in a ‘pool decider’ with the winner progressing up to the playoffs. Samoa needs a win over Scotland; the Islanders wanting to show their class (and gain vital points). There is also Celtic pride at stake, Scotland the Brave, as well as when Ireland meets Wales.

Backing up the United Kingdom group,  England and France should be exciting to watch, as the cross-channel rivals continue a traditional battle. If the France Chanticleers can make a statement, it could be the major upset of the RLWC Round 3.

Papua New Guinea will be aiming for three-from-three against minnows United States, to continue to impress as co-host nation. Australia will be doing the same, against a fiery Lebanese side boosted by NRL talent.

All seven matches will be worthy of a World Cup, but one has implications on the finals seedings like no other.

Kiwis Brace For Tongan Challenge

The ‘war of words’ began when powerhouse forward Jason Taumalolo opted to represent his ancestral homeland–not New Zealand. It sparked a backlash from the Kiwis coaching staff and public, but the player was adamant he wanted to represent the Tier-Two nation.

His ‘switching of jerseys’ [along with others] was built on the policy of the Rugby League body, but it has built-in an underlying topic. The talk of payback is underneath the surface, and the two teams outwardly say it does not motivate them, but… how can it not?

Tonga has one of the best assembled squads in the tourney. Only giants like New Zealand, England and Australia have the same firepower as the Kingdom Island. Sides are now taking Mate Ma’a Tonga now very seriously.

NZLvTON – Battle of the Forwards

It will certainly be a battle of the forwards in this game. The soldiers for the Kingdom will be Andrew Fifita, Sika Manu and Taumalolo, all leading Tonga’s charge. On the other hand, New Zealand’s warriors are Martin Taupau, Jared Warea-Hargraves, and captain Adam Blair. They, along with their bench will be leading the Kiwis frontline.

The impact from the bench too will be crucial, with Ben Murdoch-Masila and Siliva Havili prominent so far for Tonga. The Kiwis are more familiar with the interchange, so expect big Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Russel Packer to be at the fore.

Simon Mannering will be threatening the edges, like Peni Terepo. The backlines will be equally important too, with Shaun Johnson and Te Maire Martin expected to exploit Tonga.

Yes, the battle of the forwards is where the fireworks are, but the back three of both sides could determine the outcome.

Rugby league fans be ready. Here is your Round 3 match-ups.

RLWC Round 3: Vital Matchups

Match 1 – Fiji Bati v Italy Azzurri

Fiji Bati needs to wins this game at all costs. They have enjoyed their last two games with big wins. However, the Azzurri wont be giving them that much room to operate freely.

Jarryd Hayne and Henry Raiwalui will be key so will the speedy Suli Vunivalu. Twinkle-toed Aku Uate and nippy Api Koroisau are all game breakers with Taane Milne.

Tui Kamikamica and Bill Kikau will test the fringes with Ashton Sims and Eloni Vunakece carrying the hitups. The Islanders will rock Canberra on Friday night but the Italians might give them an offer theu cannot refuse? Tune in on Friday to catch who will sleep with the fishes.

Match 2 – New Zealand Kiwis v Mate Ma’a Tonga

It will be the match of the round but the forwards will be the stars. They will lay the platform for the centers to exploit. The Kiwis will rely on the Martin-Johnson combination with Tonga the Hurell-Jennings combo.

Be ready for some bone crunching, slick passing, breathtaking footy. It will be classic, brutal and splendid to watch. Don’t miss it

Tonga had booked their first ever playoff place in a World Cup last weekend; as did New Zealand. This is their biggest game in the tourney so far and will speak volume. A lot of question will answered in this game.

Match 3 – Toa Samoa v Scotland Bravehearts

Toa Samoa will capitalize on issues within the Scots camp to book a playoffs spot. They are hungry and must be ruthless. Only a win can put them through, and they will surely give it their all.

Like Wales, the Scots need a lot of soul searching as they could have done much better.

Match 4 – Australia Kangaroos v Lebanon Cedars

The plucky Lebanese outfit will give their all and the Aussies know this. Starting Felise Kaufusi and Ryan Campbell-Gillard off the bench is a good call from coach Mal Meniga. There relentlessness will be vital to shut the Cedars out. Not taking anything away from the Lebanese, they have been everyone’s third team.

Match 5 – PNG Kumuls v USA Hawks

With James Segeyaro starting expect a Kumuls onslaught. They will build on this as they prepare for the English in the Cup quarter finals.

The inclusion of American sides in a extended Super League format could bring big changes to the Americans. Hopefully, they turn up in the next tourney.

Match 6 – Ireland Wolfhounds v Wales Dragons

Celtic pride is at stake with Ireland having the upper-hand. Liam Finn’s side can finish with two wins but unfortunate to miss the playoffs. It has been a successful campaign for the Irish as they build for the future. However, the Wales need to go back to the drawing board and look for ways to improve for next world cup.

Match 7 – England Lions v France Chanticleers

The English Lions need a massive win and improvement in performance. They need to step up and show their capabilities. England have what it takes but delivering has been heir problem.

On the other hand, the French want to end their disastrous campaign on a high. They came in with high expectation but haven’t really shown any resolve.

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RLWC Round 3 – What Needs to Happen

Fiji Bati and Toa Samoa need to win their final games to book their playoffs spot. Tonga needs to show the world if they have what it really takes to beat the giants of rugby league.

England has to step-up to give the tourney good competition–a bit of excitement over the tradesman like work they are using today.

The Pacific islands sides have been very impressive in this world cup edition. On the other hand, the Europeans have been quite lethargic, expect for the Irish.

And all the while, the Kangaroos are in a holding pattern–waiting for a challenge.

RLWC Forecast

Fiji Bati can easily beat Italy and will meet the loser of the Kiwis and Tonga game. Samoa will meet Australia, if they beat Scotland.

Lebanon will meet the winner of Pool B which is highly likely to be the Kiwis with Papua New Guinea meeting England in the Cup quarters.

The Outlook

It will be ‘fast and furious’ and worth every moment to watch the results this week layout the seedings for playoffs next weekend, However, let fans enjoy RLWC Round 3 first.

The Last Word is ‘do not miss the Kiwis and Tonga game’. It will be a cracker!

 

“Main photo credit”
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