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Preview: Tonga vs Samoa

James Coman, Rugby League World Cup Reporter, rlwc2017.com

Paulo,J 17102853NH

When Toa Samoa and Mate Ma’a Tonga pack down for a scrum in Saturday’s pacific nation blockbuster, the combined weight of the forwards will be heavier than three grand pianos stacked on top of each other.

Some of the biggest bodies in Rugby League will go head to head in Saturday’s highly anticipated clash, with the forward packs of both teams weighing over half a ton.

The Tongan forward pack is one of the most skilful and talented ever put together by a Pacific nation, but in terms of sheer size and strength, it’s Samoa that comes out on top with a whopping combined weight of 665kg.

However, the Tongan side are not far behind with the Jason Taumalolo-led forward pack tipping the scales at 654kg.

With a difference of just 11kg, there isn’t much to split the two forwards packs, which could come in handy for Samoa who have won three of the past four test matches they’ve played against Tonga since 2008.

But for Samoan prop, Herman Ese’ese, size won’t matter, as long as his team works as a unit.

“It’s another big game this week coming up against Tonga who had a good start to their campaign,” said the 112kg front rower.

“We’re just sticking together as a group, we’re not putting anyone else in front of us, we’re just going to worry about ourselves and keep turning up for each other.”

But after including names like Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita in their roster, the Tongan side go into the match as favourites - especially following their 50-4 thrashing of Scotland last week. 

Samoa played well against New Zealand in their opening match, but tired legs got the better of them in the second half finishing on a 38-8 score line, which doesn’t reflect how Samoa played.

Samoa will look for the combination of Tim Lafai and Joey Leilua on the edges to cause headaches for Tonga. Lafai finished 2017 as the NRL’S second best offloader, just ahead of Leilua, who laid claim to the same achievement the year before.

However, Tonga are not without their own strike power and Michael Jennings almost single-handedly beat Scotland last week with his explosive speed and power to bag a hat-trick of tries.

But for Samoan assistant coach, Sean Long, the key to stopping the strong Tongan side isn’t over complicated.

“We’ll be looking to put an 80 minute performance together this week,” said Long.

“We didn’t come off the field scratching our heads thinking where did we go wrong,

“Its pretty simple we need to keep holding the ball, build some pressure and obviously finish our sets a bit better.”

Membership

Samoa

1   Young TONUMAIPEA
2   Ricky LEUTELE
3   Timoteo LAFAI
4   Joseph LEILUA
5   Ken MAUMALO
6   Joseph PAULO
7   Ben ROBERTS
8   Junior PAULO
9   Jazz TEVAGA
10   Herman ESE'ESE
11   Joshua PAPALII
12   Frank PRITCHARD (c)
13   Leeson AH MAU
14   Fa'amanu BROWN
15   Zane MUSGROVE
16   Sam LISONE
17   Bunty AFOA


18   Sam TAGATAESE
19   Frank WINTERSTEIN
20   Jarome LUAI
21   Matthew WRIGHT

Tonga

1   William HOPOATE
2   Daniel TUPOU
3   Michael JENNINGS
4   Solomone KATA
5   David FUSITU’A
6   Tuimoala LOLOHEA
7   Mafoa'aeata HINGANO
8   Andrew FIFITA
9   Siliva HAVILI
10  Sio Siua TAUKEIAHO
11  Manu MA'U
12  Sika MANU (c)
13  Jason TAUMALOLO
14  Sione KATOA
15  Sam MOA
16  Peni TEREPO
17  Ben MURDOCH-MASILA


18   Ukuma TA’AI
19  Manu VATUVEI
20  Konrad HURRELL
21  Samisoni LANGI