Samoa Vs Tonga
Finally, a fierce one as ‘old enemies’ Samoa and Tonga face off in Group B.
Samoa just make the one change as Peter Mata’utia sits out the clash and coming in Ricky Leutele.
Tonga have made two changes as Konrad Hurrell and Manu Vatuvei sit out the fixture and coming in are New Zealand Warriors duo Solomone Kata and David Fusitu’a.
A fairly even clash some may perceive and one that could be judged purely on maturity rather than quality.
Both three-quarter lines are similar in strength and speed, as are the pack.
Key figures to watch out for are Tim Lafai and Joseph Leilua from the Samoans, both have thrived in the NRL all season but then again so have Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou, both of which have a previous world club championship under their belt.
The reds have talent in the halves in Tuimoala Lolohea and Mafoa’aeata Hingano but Samoa can easily match that in Joseph Paulo and Ben Roberts, both recently attaining silverware with their respective clubs.
Even the forwards too, but what will be tasty is the battle of the skippers between Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu, both having been recent team mates at Hull FC.
The forward battle will see a winner here and this is where Tonga arguably have the advantage.
Samoa’s pack is rather young, especially off the bench and though such enthusiasm can pay off, on the big stage, it may overwhelm them here, hence the earlier argument of maturity rather than quality.
Tonga have experienced heads in Sam Moa, Andrew Fifita and Ben Murdoch-Masila, who are able to substitute healthily with youthful figures in Sione Katoa.
That and Manu will want to prove his worth and why being selected as Hull FC’s 2017 Player of the Year was no fluke.
So given all that, this is sure to be a tough battle, but Tonga will prevail and qualify on top of their aim of perhaps topping the group.