The Kiwis host Mate Ma'a Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night. Christopher Reive looks at the three key match ups in the game.
Ken Maumalo v David Fusitu'a
Maumalo and Fusitu'a are used to being on the pitch together, but this weekend they'll be in the unfamiliar position of facing off against one another. For the Warriors this season, Maumalo has been the more in-form of the two and has become one of the team's most reliable options on attack. Fusitu'a's try-scoring prowess is well documented, leading the NRL's try-scoring count last season, and will likely be a focus of the Tongan attack at the end of sets. The two will want to best their NRL teammate, so keep your eyes on them.
Shaun Johnson v John Asiata
It's a case of the veteran taking on the rookie. Shaun Johnson, who has missed a chunk of the NRL season due to injury, will likely outshine Asiata in the attacking game. Johnson has proven ability to run the attack; be it through his playmaking or taking on the defence. Asiata has spent most of his NRL career in the forwards, but is a great ball player and more than capable of making plays. But, in his Tongan debut, the question is whether he's up to the task of test football and if he will be able to steer the ship when called upon.
Brandon Smith v Siliva Havili
If we know one thing for sure it's that the dummy halves will be in for a busy night on the defensive end. Both teams are fielding forward packs that aren't just big, but mobile too. Smith and Havili will be required to make a lot of tackles playing in the middle of the pitch; with the likes of Jason Taumalolo and Isaac Liu charging up the middle. They're not going to play 80 minutes, but making their tackles and organising the defence will go a long way to getting their team a result.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo, Esan Marsters, Joseph Manu, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Shaun Johnson, Benji Marshall, Jesse Bromwich, Brandon Smith, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Kenneath Bromwich, Briton Nikora, Isaac Liu.
Jahrome Hughes, Leeson Ah Mau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, James Fisher-Harris, Zane Tetevano, Kieran Foran (two to be omitted)
Mate Ma'a Tonga: Will Hopoate, Daniel Tupou, Kotoni Staggs, Solomone Kata, David Fusitu'a, John Asiata, Tuimoala Lolohea, Addin Fonua-Blake, Siliva Havili, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Tevita Pangai Jr, Manu Ma'u, Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: Manase Fainu, Tevita Tatola, Peni Terepo, Sitili Tupouniua, Sione Katoa (one to be omitted).