Tonga: Bennett playing mind games
Ahead of Saturday night's Rugby League World Cup semi-final against England in Auckland, Tonga have accused veteran coach Wayne Bennett of trying to play mind games.
Bennett this week criticised eligibility rules which allowed players to change their nation of choice on the eve of the tournament kicking off, something several of Tonga's players chose to do in electing to snub the Kiwis in favour of the island nation, and hooker Siliva Havili said the timing of the comments was no coincidence.
"It's a bit late in the comp to be commenting on that I'd say. He is probably trying to play mind games with us," Havili said.
"That's Wayne Bennett… he knows what he's doing.
"I'd say that is just mind games."
No stranger to using the media to his advantage from time to time, Bennett's England side face an unbeaten Tonga attempting to make their first World Cup final since 1995.
The match will also be a virtual home game for Tonga, with Kristian Woolf's side set to have the majority of the support behind them at Mount Smart Stadium after drawing huge crowds in their games on Kiwi soil to date.
Havili said he was impressed by England's 36-6 victory over Papua New Guinea in last week's quarter-final and expected them to be their biggest challenge to date, in a tournament where they have so far beaten Scotland, Samoa, New Zealand and Lebanon.
"I'd say [this is the biggest challenge so far], they are playing real well, they are the dark horses of the comp and have got strike power all over their whole team," Havili said of England.
"Their halves and their forwards, they have got real big forwards and it's across the park because their back three are big and strong too.
"They will have learned a lot from the Kiwis game, they will look at our defence and see what they can come up with to break it."