Family will be at the front of Kiwis wing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's mind in Saturday's blockbuster Rugby League World Cup pool clash against Tonga in Hamilton.

The 22-year-old Penrith flyer is looking forward to enjoying plenty of hometown support at Waikato Stadium and wearing the black and white jersey in front of many of his loved ones for the first time.

"I'm excited but I don't think I'm as excited as my family," said Watene-Zelezniak.

"Most of my family is from Hamilton on my mum's side and I was brought up there for quite a while.


"So it's going to be a big one - not for me but for my family."

He'll also carry the memory of his great-grandfather and former New Zealand captain, Steve Watene, who was the first Maori to lead the Kiwis in 1936 and 1937.

"I didn't get to meet him but I've heard a lot of stories about him and the man that he was," he said.

"They're big shoes to fill. I'll just try and represent him and our name with as much pride and honour as I can."

Throw in the fact his father's side also boasts Tongan heritage - while he is also godfather to Tonga's hooker and Panthers clubmate Sione Katoa's young child - and its clear Watene-Zelezniak has close ties to both teams.

"I'm really close with him (Katoa) and good luck to him this weekend - we'll be enemies on Saturday, but we'll still be brothers after the game."

Watene-Zelezniak played his first test on home soil in the Kiwis tournament opening win over Samoa in Auckland, but made a couple of first-half errors before being overlooked for last week's 14-try romp over Scotland in Christchurch.

With the Kiwis place in the knock-out stages already assured, lining up against Tonga presents a chance to secure a spot on the flank for the big games ahead, after rival wings Peta Hiku and Jason Nightingale scored three tries and a double against the Bravehearts.

Cohesion shouldn't be an issue this weekend alongside his Panthers left-edge centre partner Dean Whare, who revealed Watene-Zelezniak is itching to score his first test four-pointer.

"He's been dying for me to get out there and throw him some ball or try and get him over the line," said Whare.

"He was gutted that so many of the boys scored tries last week and he couldn't play so I bet he's going out there to get a try now.

"We combine really well. Over the last three or four years we've been together on the one side and if we can play together here I think it will just fall into place really easily."

Meanwhile, Tonga are bracing themselves for a torrid battle against a Kiwis side growing in confidence and looking to prove a point after the high-profile defections of four players - Jason Taumalolo, Manu Ma'u, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and David Fusitu'a - to the Pacific island side.

Tonga have been the toast of the tournament so far, and looked sharp in belting Scotland 50-4 - although they eased off the throttle before outclassing Samoa 32-18 last week.

"The Kiwis are a Tier-A team so we know they're going to come out firing," said Katoa.

"If we play to how we want to play and can do that it will be a good game.

"From us it's just about keeping it simple and doing what we do best and the points will come.

"We'll just worry about our defence and everything else will come off the back of that."