Anyone who witnessed it will have warm and fuzzy memories of Mate Ma'a Tonga charging back from 16-2 down at half-time to upset the Kiwis 28-22 at the 2017 World Cup.

It was the first time in rugby league Test match history that a tier two nation had beaten a tier one nation.

The Kiwis will be out for revenge on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium.

One of the big talking points was Benji Marshall earning his first national squad selection in seven years.

It's no real surprise given Benji's good form in 2019 and he'll form a potent halves combination with Shaun Johnson.

Match: New Zealand v Tonga

Round 1 -

Full Time
New Zealand

Home Team

New Zealand

Scored 34 points
Tonga

Away Team

Tonga

Scored 14 points

Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Match broadcasters:

  • GEM
  • Foxtel

The Rundown

Team news

New Zealand: Coach Michael Maguire has opted to go with a Marshall-Johnson halves combination, with Kieran Foran named among the reserves. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has served his suspension for that late hit on Kalyn Ponga in round 11 and will take his place in the front row with Jesse Bromwich. Such is the strength of the Kiwi pack that Nelson Asofa-Solomona will come from the bench. Jahrome Hughes and Briton Nikora will make their Test debuts.

Tonga: Versatile Cowboy John Asiata will play his first Test for Tonga after previously representing Samoa. He will team up in the halves with Leeds playmaker Tui Lolohea. Andrew Fifita's suspension means a new prop will need to be found and Manly's Addin Fonua-Blake, who was named on the bench, is favoured to come into the starting side.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for New Zealand is number 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
    Fullback for Tonga is number 1 Will Hopoate
  • Winger for New Zealand is number 2 Ken Maumalo
    Winger for Tonga is number 5 Daniel Tupou
  • Centre for New Zealand is number 3 Esan Marsters
    Centre for Tonga is number 3 Kotoni Staggs
  • Centre for New Zealand is number 4 Joseph Manu
    Centre for Tonga is number 4 Solomone Kata
  • Winger for New Zealand is number 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
    Winger for Tonga is number 2 David Fusitu'a
  • Five-Eighth for New Zealand is number 6 Shaun Johnson
    Five-Eighth for Tonga is number 6 John Asiata
  • Halfback for New Zealand is number 7 Benji Marshall
    Halfback for Tonga is number 7 Tuimoala Lolohea

Forwards

  • Prop for New Zealand is number 8 Jesse Bromwich
    Prop for Tonga is number 15 Addin Fonua-Blake
  • Hooker for New Zealand is number 9 Brandon Smith
    Hooker for Tonga is number 9 Siliva Havili
  • Prop for New Zealand is number 10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
    Prop for Tonga is number 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
  • 2nd Row for New Zealand is number 11 Kenneath Bromwich
    2nd Row for Tonga is number 11 Tevita Pangai Junior
  • 2nd Row for New Zealand is number 12 Briton Nikora
    2nd Row for Tonga is number 12 Manu Ma'u
  • Lock for New Zealand is number 13 Isaac Liu
    Lock for Tonga is number 13 Jason Taumalolo

Interchange

  • Interchange for New Zealand is number 14 Jahrome Hughes
    Interchange for Tonga is number 14 Manase Fainu
  • Interchange for New Zealand is number 15 Leeson Ah Mau
    Interchange for Tonga is number 16 Peni Terepo
  • Interchange for New Zealand is number 16 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
    Interchange for Tonga is number 17 Sitili Tupouniua
  • Interchange for New Zealand is number 17 James Fisher-Harris
    Interchange for Tonga is number 19 Tevita Tatola

Key match-up

This game presents Tongan hooker Siliva Havili with an ideal opportunity to spearhead what might be the most powerful pack in the world. If Havili gets his big forwards charging into the Kiwis from start to finish, he's capable of a man of the match-type performance. Havili will be relishing his head-to-head clash with rugged Kiwis and Storm hooker Brandon Smith.

For New Zealand to win

The Kiwis boast more skill and creativity among their little men and Michael Maguire will be looking at ways to make the most of it. They need to keep moving Tonga's big men Fifita, Taukeiaho and Fonua-Blake around and test their mobility. They might have the muscle and resolve to cope with a power game, but that will play straight into the Tongans' hands. The wise thing to do would be to play an up-tempo, crowd-pleasing game and rely on speed and talent.

For Tonga to win

The Tongans are loaded with size and power up front but they're a bit thin in the playmaking department. Coach Kristian Woolf will have to rely heavily on a makeshift halves combination of Tuimoala Lolohea (Leeds Rhinos), who was the only overseas player named in the squad, and Cowboys jack-of-all-trades John Asiata.

Stat Attack

David Fusitu'a will never forget his five-star display when Tonga beat New Zealand in the 2017 World Cup. The Warriors winger claimed a hat-trick of tries on that incredible night, including the final try of the game to seal victory. Fusitu'a should feel right at home on the Mount Smart Stadium turf on Saturday.

And another thing ...

Whatever else you do this weekend, don't miss the pre-game stand-off when the teams perform their traditional war cries. The Tongans will no doubt provide a stirring presentation of the Sipi Tau, while the Kiwis will let the Tongans know they are in enemy territory with a typically passionate rendition of the world-famous Haka. It's sure to be spine-tingling stuff.