The New Zealand Kiwis take on Mate Ma’a Tonga this weekend in what is expected to be another brutal and enthralling encounter.
Criminally, these two sides have only met before on five occasions. However, the recent resurgence of International rugby league and the push for more inclusion for the Pacific Island nations has rekindled the flame and future fixtures are in place.
From a statistical point of view, it is still early days in the history of this fixture due to the modest amount of matches. But here is a look at some key stats:
- 5 – New Zealand has played Tonga on five occasions, winning four times.
There are six changes from the last Test the Kiwis played. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Benji Marshall, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, James Fisher-Harris, and debutants Briton Nikora and Jahrome Hughes come in for Jamayne Isaako, Kodi Nikorima, Kevin Proctor, Adam Blair, Isaiah Papali’i and Joseph Tapine.
- 818 – Mt Maunganui-born 21-year-old Briton Nikora is set to play his first test for the Kiwis. The Cronulla second-row rookie will become Kiwi #818.
- 819 – Wellington-born 24-year-old Jahrome Hughes is set to play his first test for the Kiwis. The Melbourne utility will become Kiwi #819.
Kiwis in the whare 🏠🇳🇿💪 pic.twitter.com/Yivzv82PeL
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) June 19, 2019
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been named captain of the Kiwis after first taking the armband in 2018.
- 5 – This will be Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s fifth test as Kiwis captain. He currently has a record of two wins and two losses.
- 3 – There are three current or former Kiwi captains in the match-day 17 – current captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (2018-2019) and former captains Benji Marshall (2008-2012) and Jesse Bromwich (2016-2017).
Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck comes back into the Kiwis for his first test match since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
- 13 – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has scored 13 tries for the Kiwis from 16 Tests, the most of the current squad. He needs one more try to draw level with James Leuluai in equal-10th place for the all-time most tries for the Kiwis. Manu Vatuvei is outright first with 22 tries.
Veteran half Benji Marshall makes his return to the Kiwis fold after a seven-year hiatus in what will be his 28th test for the Kiwis.
- 32 – The Kiwis have played 32 Tests since Benji Marshall last appeared in the black-and-white jersey.
Benji Marshall and Shaun Johnson have been listed as the starting halves combination for the New Zealand Kiwis’ Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, June 22
READ – https://t.co/ZcGD0UAC7T pic.twitter.com/fMM2DTM7Qj
— NZ Rugby League (@NZRL_Kiwis) June 18, 2019
He will line up in the halves with Shaun Johnson for the first time since the 2012 Anzac Test against Australia. That match was Johnson’s debut for the Kiwis.
- 29 – Shaun Johnson has played 29 of the 34 Kiwis Tests since he made his debut in 2012.
- 29 – Shaun Johnson is the most experienced Kiwi player in the team in terms of Test matches with 29, closely followed by Jesse Bromwich (28 tests), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (28) and Benji Marshall (27).
- 211 – Shaun Johnson has scored 211 points for the Kiwis. The most in their Test history. He also has kicked the most goals for the Kiwis with 83, along with 11 tries and one field goal.
This will be coach Michael Maguire’s sixth test in charge of the Kiwis.
- 2 – Michael Maguire has just 2 wins from his five Tests as Kiwis coach.
The squad is represented by players from seven different NRL clubs.
- 5 – Five of the Kiwis’ line-up currently play for the Melbourne Storm. The next-biggest representation comes from Sydney Roosters and the Warriors with three each.
- 7 – Auckland provides seven players in terms of where players where born. Honourable mention goes to Kohukohu (population 350) providing one player, James Fisher-Harris.
- 69 – Leeson Ah Mau will become the 69th player to represent the Kiwis whilst playing for the Warriors.
- 20 – Jahrome Hughes will become the 20th player to represent the Kiwis whilst playing for the Melbourne Storm. The Roosters (26), Bulldogs (21) and Manly (17) are other frequent suppliers of Kiwi talent.
Three Kiwis players have previously played a Test match for another nation.
- 2 – Ken Maumalo and Isaac Liu have both previously represented Samoa in Test matches.
- 1 – Esan Marsters has previously represented the Cook Islands in a Test match.
Eleven of Tonga’s line-up have either represented another nation in a Test match or played State of Origin football previously.
- 3 – Will Hopoate, Daniel Tupou and Andrew Fifita have all played State of Origin for NSW.
- 2 – Tupou and Fifita have both represented Australia in Test matches previously.
- 8 – Solomone Kata, David Fusitu’a, Tui Lolohea, Siliva Havili, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Manu Ma’u, Jason Taumalolo and Addin Fonua-Blake have all represented New Zealand in Test matches previously.
Mate Ma'a Tonga fan day at our fale 🇹🇴
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) June 18, 2019
One particular Kiwis v Tonga Test match added quite a few entries to the record books (though it is best remembered for Stacey Jones suffering a badly broken arm that sidelined him until Round 8 of the following NRL season).
- 74 – The Kiwis thrashed Tonga 74-0 in Auckland in 1999, the highest score and winning margin in New Zealand Test history at the time. An 84-10 win over Cook Island’s at the following year’s World Cup broke the former record and equalled the latter.
- 4 – Brian Jellick scored four tries in the 74-0 win over Tonga. The equal-second most tries in a Test match by a Kiwi. Hugh McGahan holds the world record with six against Papua New Guinea in 1983.
- 26 – Henry Paul scored 26 points in the 74-0 win over Tonga, made up of one try and 11 goals. Tasesa Lavea holds the record for most points and goals in a Test for New Zealand, with 32 points from two tries and 12 goals against Cook Islands in the 2000 World Cup.
The Warriors have been represented in all five New Zealand v Tonga Tests, contributing players to both nations on four occasions.
- 8 – Sean Hoppe, Richie Blackmore, Gene Ngamu, Stacey Jones, Syd Eru, Stephen Kearney and Hitro Okesene played in New Zealand’s 25-24 win over a Tonga side captained by Warriors clubmate Duane Mann at the 1995 World Cup.
- 5 – Warriors quintet Jones, Joe Vagana, Terry Hermansson, Logan Swann and Nigel Vagana lined up for the Kiwis in their 74-0 rout of Tonga in late-1999.
- 5 – Jerome Ropati, Nathan Fien, Simon Mannering and Sam Rapira squared off against Warriors teammate Epahalame Lauaki in New Zealand’s 56-8 win over Tonga in the lead-up to the 2008 World Cup.
- 3 – Tonga’s Warriors contingent outnumbered New Zealand’s in a 2009 encounter in Rotorua. Suiatonga Likiliki and Ukuma Ta’ai represented the island nation in a 40-24 loss to the Kiwis side who had Lance Hohaia at fullback.
- 5 – Warriors duo David Fusitu’a and Ata Hingano celebrated in Tonga’s historic 28-22 upset of New Zealand at the 2017 RLWC. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Simon Mannering turned out for the vanquished Kiwis.