Tonga v Scotland
Derwent Park, Workington
Tuesday 8pm (UK time)
Wednesday 7am (AEDT); 6am (AEST)
The battle for Group C kicks off with a powerful Tongan side facing one of the competition's long-shots. Tonga thrashed Scotland 49-0 at the 2008 World Cup and they look even stronger this time around with 17 NRL players in their ranks.
They thumped Samoa 36-4 in April and are the favourites to win Group C and take the one and only quarter-final spot on offer.
Scotland meanwhile are the group's underdogs, considering the quality of Tonga and the form of fellow Group C side Italy. The Scots have 10 Super League players in their squad and four NRL players – Peter Wallace, Luke Douglas, Kane Linnett and Matt Russell – but struggled in their warm-up match against Papua New Guinea last week on the way to a 38-20 defeat.
But while they can't match Tonga's power they do have stronger playmakers, which gives them a genuine chance of an upset here.
Watch Out Scotland: Outside the 'big three' of Australia, New Zealand and England, the Tongans probably have the most talented team at this World Cup. They've got genuine grunt up front with skipper Brent Kite, barnstorming Eels veteran Fuifui Moimoi, Cowboys cannonball Jason Taumalolo, Penrith's Sika Manu and St Helens forward Willie Manu. Then there's the raw power of outside backs Jorge Taufua, Konrad Hurrell and premiership-winning Rooster Daniel Tupou, plus the guile of Warriors young gun Glen Fisiiahi at fullback. The Scots' defence is going to be tested all over the park.
Watch Out Tonga: Scotland have the edge in one area, and it's an important one: the halves. Panthers-bound ex-Brisbane Bronco Peter Wallace is a seasoned campaigner and has played four State of Origin games. Alongside him is the current Super League League 'Man of Steel' Danny Brough, who was controversially left out of England's World Cup squad after leading Huddersfield to the top of the Super League ladder. They appear to have a clear advantage over likely Tongan halves pairing Samisoni Langi and Daniel Foster, and if they can control the game and create chances for their outside men the Tongans could be surprised.
Key Match-Up: Brent Kite v Luke Douglas. With Tonga boasting the better outside backs and Scotland possessing the stronger 6 and 7, the battle of the forwards could go a long way to deciding which backline gets the chance to shine in this game. Two leaders of the packs will face off in the front row: Kite, a veteran with more than a decade in the game and 14 Kangaroos appearances with to his name; and Douglas, the hardest worker of a star-studded Gold Coast Titans pack who is now a star himself in this Scotland side. If Douglas can lead by example and inspire Scotland's pack the underdogs could narrow the gap with their more talented rivals.
Televised: 7mate – Live Wednesday 7am (NSW); 6am (Qld).
The Way We See It: Brough and Wallace give Scotland a real chance in this one, but it's hard to look past a team with the talent of Tonga – especially considering recent results. Form is not on Scotland's side and they'll struggle to match the confidence of Tonga, who should win this one by 10 points.