Ki ora, good evening and welcome Newshub’s live coverage of the international rugby league test between NZ Kiwis and Mate Ma’a Tonga from Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
New Zealand welcome their Pacific Island rivals to a sold out Mt Smart Stadium, which will serve as the first game of test rugby league since the end of 2019.
The Kiwis boast a 5-1 lead over Tonga in the six matches they’ve played since 1995, including a 34-14 victory in their last encounter two years ago.
Parramatta Eels duo Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore will play their first match in the black and white jersey, while Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo will also make his debut.
Sydney Roosters star Joseph Manu will line-up at fullback, while Panthers forward Moses Leota is the fourth debutant named by coach Michael Maguir as he starts from the bench.
Kotoni Staggs will start at No.6 for Tonga after being overlooked by NSW for the second State of Origin game, while Manly winger Christian Tuipulotu will make his test debut on the wing.
North Queensland Cowboys talisman Jason Taumalolo will co-captain the team, alongside Roosters’ Siosiua Taukeiaho. NZ Warriors forward Addin Fonua-Blake joins the pair in a strong Tongan pack.
TAB odds: Kiwis $1.25 Tonga $3.85
Kiwis: 1-Joseph Manu, 2-Ronald Mulitalo, 3-Marata Niukore, 4-Peta Hiku, 5-Jordan Rapana, 6-Dylan Brown, 7-Jahrome Hughes, 8-Jesse Bromwich, 9-Brandon Smith, 10-James Fisher-Harris, 11-Isaiah Papali’i, 12- Kenneath Bromwich, 13-Joseph Tapine
14-Kieran Foran, 15-Moses Leota, 16-Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17-Briton Nikora, 18-Jordan Riki, 19-Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Tonga: 1-Tolutau Koula, 2-Christian Tuipulotu, 3-Will Penisini, 4-Moses Suli, 5-Sione Katoa, 6-Kotoni Staggs, 7-Talatau Amone, 8-Addin Fonua-Blake, 9-Siliva Havili, 10-Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11-Sitili Tupouniua, 12-Keaon Koloamatangi, 13-Jason Taumalolo
14-Soni Luke, 15-Haumalo Olakau’atu, 16-Tevita Tatola, 17-Moeaki Fotuaika, 18-Joe Ofahengaue, 19- Isaiah Katoa
‘Good for the game’: Kiwis winger calls for more New Zealand v Tonga tests
As international rugby league prepares to return to New Zealand soil when the Kiwis host Mate Ma’a Tonga on Saturday, winger Jordan Rapana is hopeful the two sides can continue to develop their rivalry with regular tests in the coming years.
On Saturday evening, the Kiwis welcome Tonga to a sold out Mt Smart Stadium, as the first game of test rugby league since the end of 2019, and the first game of any kind since 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic after NZ Warriors were forced to relocate to Australia.
Fittingly, the Kiwis will be up against Tonga, as the two sides have formed a healthy rivalry in recent years, dating back to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.