8 Nov 2017

Kiwis plan to absorb and unleash on Tonga

7:11 am on 8 November 2017

Attritional tactics are the order of the day for New Zealand in Saturday's Rugby League World Cup showdown with Tonga, as the Kiwis look to gradually wear out their opponents' much-vaunted forward pack.

Martin Taupau in action for the Kiwis against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England. Photo credit: Alex Whitehead / www.photosport.nz

Martin Taupau in action for the Kiwis. Photo: Photosport

Mate Ma'a have a galaxy of talent to call upon up front, from ex-Kangaroo Andrew Fifita to Kiwi defectors Jason Taumalolo and Sio Siua Taukeiaho.

And they've enjoyed plenty of good form so far, laying the platform for a first- up 50-4 pool thrashing of Scotland and a 32-18 dismantling of Toa Samoa.

Yet the Tongans' strength through the middle lends to a one-dimensional style, according to Kiwi prop Marty Taupau, and can be nullified by smart play.

He revealed the Kiwis would look to retain possession in Hamilton and force the Tongans into tackle after tackle, slowly sapping their energy.

They'd then dispatch their Polynesian foes, isolating tired defenders and unleashing Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in one-on-one situations.

Therein lie the keys to victory, and topping Pool B.

"The obvious one is to tire them out so the more they tackle, the less juice they have to attack - that's the simplest way to put it," Taupau said.

"They've got a great calibre of player in there and now it's just about sticking to our structures, and hopefully that'll put us in a strong position.

"Our target is the whole team - we don't have any specifics."

Yet the Kiwis' game plan is easier said than done, given its emphasis on absorbing the sheer brute force of star lock Taumalolo and his running metres.

In his two World Cup games so far, Taumalolo has made a combined 366 metres with ball-in-hand, behind only Taukeiaho in the Mate Ma'a camp.

Taupau, who will be central to those efforts alongside the likes of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Adam Blair and Russell Packer, acknowledged as much.

He'd have to be at his very best to carry out his role properly.

The entire Kiwis team would also have to adopt an emotionally detached mindset and approach the Test against ex-Kiwi Taumalolo clinically.

"The challenge for us will be execution, being precise in what we want to do, and hopefully at the end we come out on top," the 18-cap Taupau said.