Kiwis captain Adam Blair says people need to keep sport in perspective after violent clashes between Tongan and Samoan fans threaten to overshadow the on-field action at the Rugby League World Cup.
Speaking before the Kiwis final captain's training run before tomorrow's clash against Scotland in Christchurch, Blair briefly addressed the simmering tensions between fans ahead of tomorrow's highly anticipated clash between Samoa and Tonga, saying people need to be respectful of players and rival supporters.
The 32-year-old admitted he was not fully aware of all of the details around several violent incidents in Auckland this week, but took time to urge fans to remember that despite the importance of the World Cup, they are simply playing a game.
"One hundred per cent," said Blair.
"We're out there to do a job and we want to be respected at the same time.
"At the end of the day it is a game and we're passionate about what we do and everyone needs to be respectful of what's going on.
"The people are passionate and that's all I can really comment on.
"I haven't really seen much of what's been going on.
"I just know that the Tongan and Samoan people are passionate about their cultures."
Blair's comments come after the Kiwis' tournament opening win over Samoa last Saturday was marred by seven pitch invaders running on to the field during a break in play in the second-half at Mt Smart Stadium.
That incident preceded a number of ugly street fights over the past few days as the excitement boiled over in the lead-up to tomorrow's showdown between the island nations at Waikato Stadium.
Emotions are also expected to run high on the field when the Kiwis take on Tonga in Hamilton next weekend.
Both sides will compete for a spot in the quarter-finals and there is added spice to the game following the defection of four former Kiwis internationals - Jason Taumalolo, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Manu Ma'u and David Fusitu'a - to Tonga.
Tonga are riding a wave of support as their impressive line-up - also featuring NRL stars Andrew Fifita and Michael Jennings - walloped Scotland 50-4 in Cairns last Sunday.