New Zealand v Tonga

The Tongan gameplan

New Zealand and Tonga kick off the 2011 World Cup. It’s customary for NZ to pummel the other teams in their group and this match shouldn’t be much different. Tonga will be out to level a few big names – I’m looking at you Sunny Bull – and Tonga’uiha is a giant who destroyed some big names during the Northern Hemisphere season.

The bookies make this a 59 point game, down from 64 earlier in the week and have gone evens at that. Good news for Tonga then! That tells you what you need to know about the result, so we’ll be waiting for the post mortem about New Zealand’s prospects of fulfilling their favouritism for the tournament.

A little like Marc Lievrèmont, Graham Henry can’t seem to settle on his first choice team. He has a lot of good players to choose from so fair enough but, if he was playing South Africa tomorrow, would he get it right? If NZ win then history will judge him kindly. Should they fail to close out another tournament then Henry will be off to Japan lickedy split with a few questions ringing in his ears.

What does Jimmy Cowan, or any of the half backs in the squad, have to do to win the first spot? Pass quick ruck ball to the best out half in the world? Not a tough job, it’s a question of what happens when the pressure comes on. Cowan’s had this spot for the majority of recent matches only for Weepu to get a few runs during the Tri Nations.

Does Brad Thorn still have the legs? The Mole is a big fan of Brad Thorn but questions if ol’ granite legs still makes as much impact as in years gone by (i.e. last year). Henry has stood by him and undoubtedly has a bank of stats that tell him how much Unseen Work Brad gets through. He probably uses the same program that tracks Donncha O’Callaghan.

Is Sunny Bull an indulgence or a game breaking midfielder who will prove to be the final piece in the jigsaw? He’s sure to look good tomorrow playing beside His Dan-ness as NZ break fifty, prepare for special features in the Sundays.

Israel Dagg to score a brace looks good for a boredom bet, if only because the Hawkes Bay flyer is an exciting runner and its difficult to know what to expect.

You will be pretty bored of over-choreographed hakas before this tournament is over though. Sky Plus, fast forward. And to think that it used to get the blood pumping. Roll on the rugby!

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