NEWS PREVIEW

Taumalolo show dominates NZ-Tonga clash

Words have flowed thick and fast from all parties ahead of Saturday's crunch Rugby League World Cup pool match between New Zealand and Tonga.

Except from one very important man.

Jason Taumalolo has dominated every aspect of this week's pre-Test build-up, having rocked the Kiwis with his last-minute Cup defection to Tonga.

The 24-year-old powerhouse has done all he can to avoid the public spotlight before Saturday's showdown in Hamilton, but he'll do plenty of talking on the field, Tongan coach Kristian Woolf says.

"Jason is Jason, always the same - out there having a laugh, having fun and, like everyone else, looking forward to the challenge," Woolf said.

Taumalolo's snub was thought to sound the death knell for a beleaguered Kiwi side's Cup hopes.

And with his Cup form to date, it's easy to see why.

The North Queensland lock has made a combined 366 running metres in pool wins over Scotland and Samoa, bettered only by prop Sio Siua Taukeiaho.

But New Zealand have also beaten Samoa and the Bravehearts in pool play, placing them on a collision course with Tonga for top spot in Pool B.

That would mean skipper Adam Blair facing off against a man he's labelled a traitor and coward for not telling Kidwell of his allegiance switch in person.

Not that the Warriors-bound veteran was too concerned.

He upheld his previous harsh words for Taumalolo but, like his counterpart, hoped to channel any emotions he felt into a clinical and dominant performance.

"I know it's going to be physical, without a doubt - I've played in so many games and know what to expect," Blair said on Friday.

"I'll be going out there, being a calm leader, positive, and bringing a lot of energy around the group, making sure we're not wasting it on things we can't control."

Victory in Saturday's Test is especially crucial for both sides, with the winner to top the pool and likely evade Cup favourites Australia until the final.


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