The All Blacks rock up to Twickenham for their tour opener against a Barbarians side filled with players from the southern hemisphere. Ho hum.

It pits season-long rivals against each other once more for bragging rights over some beers after the contest.

There's a similar theme tomorrow night at Waikato Stadium but there's everything on this clash as Tonga and Samoa square off in the Rugby League World Cup.

Compare the atmosphere which has increased all week and reminds us of the vitality and energy Pacific Island nations bring to sport.


Cast your memory back to the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the animated flavour those countries and their fans brought to that tournament.

It's happening again. It can get a touch unruly, a little too expressive at times as the one-upmanship escalates and there were words of caution from both camps to cool the heat as evenings get too disruptive in Auckland's southern corridor.

However, all that passion and fervour will bring an unrivalled backdrop when South Auckland shifts to Hamilton tomorrow and the Cup pitches the Pacific Island neighbours into combat.

There'll be domestic interest in the fortunes of the Kiwis in the earlier match against Scotland but the roaring tide of passion will make a bullseye for Waikato Stadium.

Compare that to the lethargic midweek announcement of squads for the 2018 version of the awkward Super Rugby series as a composite side of players and staff from down-under gathered on the other side of the world, to socialise, work out innovative moves they'll never use in another match and pouch a hefty pile of cash for an end of year appearance.

An All Blacks-Barbarians match used to pitch a collection of notable UK players and rookies wearing their famous jersey and club socks against the tourists but that largesse has disappeared.

Club owners want their roster for their competitions in a congested calendar so no UK-eligible players have been released.

Good on those who answered the call to play and top that appearance off with some early Christmas bonhomie and shopping courtesy of the Baabaas cheque account.


It's another All Black trial game shoe-horned into the schedule as we continue to hear bleating from coaches and administrators about the crazy length of the season and number of games on their itinerary.

They are blooding another bunch of players in the 747-strong group on tour to cope with three tests, the Baabaas match and one against the French XV and while that expands the depth it also delivers arguments about the value of the All Black jersey and commercialism against player welfare and the integrity of NZ competitions.

Raw honesty is stacking up in the RLWC. Anyone who watched Tonga flex their muscular league style against Scotland in the warmth of Cairns would have been impressed by their combination of power, endurance and skills.

That exuberance flummoxed their rivals early and will cause concern for Samoa who hung tough against the Kiwis but lacked polish.

Everyone is talking Jason Taumalolo for Tonga and it's easy to see why when his pistons start churning, defenders are bowled over and offloads appear.

He's no one-man show though. Tonga has a cluster of big, ball-playing athletes, men with heavy-haulage engines and extra gears who know that discipline and enjoyment is a punishing sporting recipe.