Rugby League World Cup: New Zealand v Tonga Preview

Neighbours and fierce rivals New Zealand and Tonga will square off in the Third Round of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup on Saturday the 11th of November.

The Kiwis and Mate Ma'a Tonga will lock horns this Saturday in a 2017 Rugby League World Cup fixture. The New Zealanders will return home for this one as the game is taking place at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton.

Home ground advantage has seen the hosts installed as clear-cut favourites but they will have to be on their game if they are to live up to the tag as the Tongans are more than capable of causing an upset here.

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New Zealand v Tonga | Saturday 11 November | FMG Stadium | 08:00

To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 7/20 | Draw 21/1 | Tonga 47/20
New Zealand  (-8.5) 10/11| Tonga (+8.5) 10/11 * Expected handicap

*Rugby League Rules, Betting Markets and Scoring System

For those unfamiliar with the sport, here's a breakdown of some of the important rules, betting markets and how the scoring system in Rugby League works.

Betting Markets

The ante-post betting markets function in the same way as the Rugby Union with a To Win Match market and a handicap market. There's a massive gulf in class between the top-tier sides and the lower ranked teams so the handicaps are often very high.

As is the case with the Rugby Union, you can bet live on the Rugby League via the Hollywoodbets Live In-Play platform. There are a variety of markets available there including full-time and half-time points spreads, handicaps, and team points spreads.


Rugby League is a rather complicated sport to bet on if you're not too sure of the rules, but the breakdown below should clear things up for you.

Unlike the Rugby Union, there is no competition for the ball at rucks. Instead, a completed tackle - the player must be brought to the ground or held up with no forward momentum for a tackle to be deemed completed - ending in either a turnover or a reset of possession for the attacking team. The attackers get six phases of possession and the ball is then turned over if the defending team completes six tackles without infringing.

Defensive infringements result in the attacking team being awarded another six phases of possession, while if the attacking team infringes the defending team is awarded possession.

There is a multitude of different infringements in the Rugby League. As in the case of Union, a knock-on in Rugby League results in a scrum with the defending team given the feed. Dangerous tackles result in penalties, but these are awarded a lot less often than in Union. Attacking teams can be penalised for running obstruction lines as happens in the Rugby Union.

Teams can kick for touch from a penalty but there are no lineouts in Rugby League with a tap kick taking place where the ball went out, while a ball going out from general player results in a scrum.

As is in Union, teams are awarded a try for grounding the ball over the try line. There has to be downward pressure as well, and players are often held up over the line.

Scoring System

  • Four points are awarded for a try.
  • Two points are awarded for a successful conversion.
  • Penalty conversions are worth three points
  • A drop goal - or field goals as it's known in League - is worth only one point.

New Zealand

David Kidwell's Kiwi's have enjoyed a stellar start to their World Cup campaign winning their opening two games by mammoth margins. The 2013 World Cup Runners-Up opened their 2017 campaign with a 38-8 victory over Pacific rivals Samoa and the hammered Scotland 74-6 the following week.

Most of Kidwell's squad ply their trade in the NRL, which is Australia's national domestic tournament. The competition is, without a shadow of a doubt, the world's premier domestic tournament and contains star players from across the globe. New Zealand also has a franchise who compete in the NRL, the New Zealand Warriors, they are a mid-table team at best, however.

One man in black to watch this coming weekend is halfback Shaun Johnson. The elusive veteran was at his devastating best against the 'Scots last Saturday and managed to bag 22 of New Zealand's 74 points.


The Tongans certainly threw gasoline on the flames of their rivalry with the Kiwi's prior to the start of the World Cup as they recruited three of New Zealand's internationals just weeks before the tournament kicked off. While this in itself must sound absurd for sports fans, it's quite common for players to swap nations just prior to big tournaments due to the very loose representative laws in Rugby League.

Like their opponents for next Saturday, Tonga have gotten their tournament off to a solid start beating Wales 50-4 in their tournament opener. They followed that up with a 32-18 victory over the Samoans. The game was a lot tighter than the scoreline would have one believe, with the Samoans putting in a much more impressive display than during their game against New Zealand.

Verdict: Tonga (+8.5) 10/11 * Expected handicap
This is going to be a volatile clash and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a few yellow cards, or even a red, dished out. As such, it's likely to be a scrappy old day out in Hamilton, which is why I think the Tongans won't go down by more than nine points. New Zealand will win it but not by much. 

Written by Darry Worthington for

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