The Rugby League World Cup really starts on Saturday night.

While it has been nice having the developing nations take part their participation has had little impact on the outcome of the tournament.

It is really hard to put into perspective where the major nations are at based on what we've seen so far. David Kidwell's Kiwis have had two impressive wins over Samoa and Scotland and are playing an attractive brand of football. Likewise the Tongans have impressed in beating the same opposition.

But Saturday night's match in Hamilton should provide some proper answers. It isn't until they get top quality opposition that we can accurately gauge all aspects of their play.


The Kiwis forward pack has been very good so far this tournament. But for the first 20 minutes of the game against Samoa however they haven't really been tested. They haven't had a team bring line-speed at them nor have they had ball runners punching holes in the line or getting fast play-the-balls. That could and should happen against the Tongan pack containing stars like Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita.

The test will be how they play under fatigue, how they stop an opposition pack getting a roll on and how they wrestle back the initiative from a dominant team.

Tonga's young halves have played particularly well this tournament too but the jury is out on them as well. Former Warrior Tui Lolohea and current Warrior Ata Hingano have done a good job steering their side around the park but that has been against opposition sides they've been on top of. How will the two youngsters go behind a pack that isn't dominating to the same degree? Can they be as effective? Will they take control of the situation?

The answers should come Saturday night and that will tell us a lot about what to expect come semifinal time.

There is naturally a lot of interest in this game. Tonga looks very strong on paper and the fact a number of high profile New Zealand-eligible players made the call to represent the Pacific Island nation has added a layer of intrigue about the contest.

But I genuinely think there won't be the much anticipated get-squares and paybacks a lot of fans think there will be. Listening to Kidwell and the Kiwi players talk during the week made me feel they see the result as being the clear focus. There is too much to lose to worry about making a statement. Tonga too are focused on doing more than looking good on paper. They want the Kiwis' scalp.

Both teams will have an edge about them because they recognise that this will be the biggest test of the tournament so far and a replica of what awaits in the semifinals even though it isn't sudden death this weekend.