England vs Tonga Preview

Both sides have got to this point in the tournament by downing tough opponents, Tonga have definitely had the tougher games though. The Mate Ma'a looked like they weren't going to make it to the next round, after Lebanon put in the performance of a lifetime, the game finishing 24-22.

England somehow ran out 30 points to the good last week against the Kumuls, every England game is like groundhog day for fans. The same things happen week in week out, take the lead in the first 20 minutes, then spend the rest of the game inviting pressure, dropping the ball cold and giving away some cheap penalties. Hopefully this issue has been resolved ahead of this crucial game. 

England are looking for their first World Cup final since 1995, they were close 4 years ago, until a Shaun Johnson moment of brilliance with 1 minute to go, would shatter English dreams. Tonga are looking at their first ever World Cup final, 80 minutes and an England side, stand between the Mate Ma'a and yet more history in this tournament.

England: Despite England's issues throughout this tournament, they still come into this game as favourites to make the final. The history books favor the English, 2 meetings and 2 wins, but unfortunately for England, Tonga are a substantially better side than they were back in 2006 when these sides last met. England are unchanged from the side that beat Papua New Guinea last week, coach Wayne Bennett will hope that the familiarity between the players, will ensure a good performance.

The England's leading try scorer and tournament's leading metre maker, Jermaine McGilvary, is expected to play a huge part in this game. Watkins' fast hands have presented the big winger with plenty of tries so far, their understanding as a partnership has been a complete success, from defense to attack, Tonga will be watching the English right edge very closely. It's going to be a battle of NRL vs Super League, when Alex Walmsley faces off against Jason Taumololo, both men were the leading metre makers in their respective competitions, expect to see a big personal contest between these two.

Tonga: The Tongan's have only made two changes to the side that scraped a victory against Lebanon last week, Peni Terepo comes in for Ukuma Ta'ai, who will start on the bench. Sio Taukeiaho replaces Joe Ofahengaue, and reclaims his number 10 jersey. The Mate Ma'a started quickly, scoring tries and punching holes in the Lebanese line, they are going to have to start just as well again, in order to prevent England getting an early advantage.  

Taukeiaho has been a major contributor in Tonga's success in the World Cup so far. The number 10 has easily been one of the best players of the tournament, his performances in this World Cup are going to put in contention for a starting position with the Roosters next year. Tonga will be hoping it's more of the same from him. 

Conclusion: Tonga will be play with a little anxiety in this game, it's such a big occasion for the country as a whole. Most of the Tongan players have played big games at club level, but nothing is going to compare to the nerves coming into this game. England are going to be the calmer of the two sides, they've been here before, they know what they have to do. The main goal is around early set completion. I'm going to give this to England by a margin of 4 to 10 points. 



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