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Kiwis see (Tongan) red at home

The sporting focus on this side of the hemisphere is on rugby league, with the Test matches lined up this weekend.

One of the most talked about encounters is the Mate Ma’a Tonga clash against New Zealand on Saturday.

Tongan supporters excited about today’s game. Picture: Siaosi Sovaleni – Huakavameiliku Twitter

The venue of the game is Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, and the streets of the Kiwi capital have been painted red.

This seems more of Tonga’s home game than that of the Kiwis.

Tongan coaching staff Kristian Woolf, Dean Young, Wayne Bennett and Sika Manu. Picture: Tonga Rugby League

There is huge expectation from the Tongans. In 2019, they created the biggest upset in rugby league history, first beating the Kangaroos and then going on to beat Great Britian. It would have been a hat-trick but Tonga succumbed to New Zealand.

Tonga have the guidance of rugby league guru Wayne Bennett as the technical adviser. It seems coach Dean Young will be letting his young guns have the first crack, perhaps testing them before the Rugby League World Cup.

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Young has announced nine uncapped players to be fielded. Big names such as Andrew Fifita and Tevita Pangai Jnr will be watching from the sidelines while Joe Ofahengaue sits in reserve.

Tongan supporters excited about today’s game. Picture: Siaosi Sovaleni – Huakavameiliku Twitter

The line up is young with three teenagers, 19-year-olds Will Penisini, and Toluta’u Koula, along with 18-year-old reserve Isaiya Katoa.

Young said the players are being well prepped by the leading members of the team.

Tongan rugby league fans will be in a frenzy when Tonga takes on NZ. Picture: Tonga Rugby League

“You know the leaders have been great this week, they’ve been driving the sand of training”, Young said at a press conference.

“We’ll have nine blokes who will be making their debut for Tonga, and one thing I got to witness in 2019 is how much it means to play for Tonga so those nine guys who make their debut on Saturday will be ready to go and I’m excited.”

Tongan supporters excited about today’s game. Picture: Siaosi Sovaleni – Huakavameiliku Twitter

Young is also making his debut as coach of Mate Ma’a Tonga with regular coach Kristian Woolf along with veteran players Konrad Hurrell, Will Hopoate, and Tuimoala Lolohea, unavailable due to commitments to their Super League Clubs in England.

In other international league games today, Samoa will play the Cook Islands at 5:40pm local time, while PNG lines up against Fiji at 7:50pm local time.

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