June Internationals: Tonga v Wales Preview


Shaun Goosen takes a look at Friday's June international between Tonga and a second string Welsh side.

In one of two games scheduled to kick-off at Eden Park this Saturday, Tonga will face-off against Wales in their first game of 2017. Wales, without 12 of their British & Irish Lions players, have included 14 uncapped ones in their squad to do battle over the next few weeks and will look to these next Tests as a way of blooding the next generation of Dragons.

Tonga v Wales | Friday 16 June | Eden Park | 07:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Tonga 9/1 | Draw 45/1 | Wales 1/50
Tonga (+18.5) 9/10 | Wales (-18.5) 9/10

Coach Toutai Kefu’s Tonga have a tough first hit-out of the year this week – British Lions or no. Wales will be a solid challenge for the Islanders, who would so love a second straight win over one of the Six Nations sides (after they downed Italy last year). As was evident when the Sea Eagles beat tournament finalists France at the 2011 RWC; they sure can entertain on their day. You’d probably expect a very physical, loose game from them as they look for some classic Islander hits and offloads.

The Tonga boys have won three of their last five encounters going into this one, and you can bet they’ll be aiming for another against the Welsh. They really will go into this clash as underdogs, and won’t be burdened by any expectations of winning – they have nothing to lose. They will throw the ball around and try to entertain; and the Eden Park faithful are sure to be full of support for their fellow-Islanders. Indeed, the venue may well prove to be the “16th-man” for the Tongans, which could lift them to a famous win this weekend.

With Warren Gatland just a few miles away with the Lions, usual Wales forwards’ coach, Robin McBryde, has been tasked with leading the national side in his absence. With the high number of experienced heads absent, these June internationals will be used as a way to expose new talent to the Welsh international set-up. McBryde will be granted some slack with regards to performances over the next few weeks, but you can have no doubt that he’ll still be expected to get positive results. He will still be expected to lead his side to victories over minnows such as Tonga, so he should take nothing for granted.

That being said, he should have no problem in putting the Islanders away with the wealth of talent at his disposal. Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert both toured with the Lions four-years ago, while they have reasonably seasoned campaigners in Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe to call upon. They will be wary of allowing the game to get too loose (Tonga will thrive in such an environment), but they should still put their opponents to bed. Their set-piece and physicality will see to that.

Verdict: Wales (-18.5) 9/10
Tonga may well prove me wrong, especially at Eden Park, but if the Welsh match the Islanders’ physicality and boss the set-piece then they’ll have the game in the bag. Tonga don’t have the quality to match the eager-to-please Welshlings over eighty minutes.

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Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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