Tonga v England: RLWC Preview
Tonga v England
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 4pm (ADST)
The Lions against the Woolf; it reads like a Game of Thrones battle between the Lannisters and the Starks, but in reality it's the much-hyped showdown between Wayne Bennett's England and Kristian Woolf's Tonga as they duke it out for a spot in the World Cup final.
Tonga headed into the tournament with plenty of fanfare after it was revealed Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita had switched allegiances to the Pacific nation, and Mate Ma'a walked the walk when then stunned New Zealand to top Pool B.
However their fairytale run almost ended in tragedy against Lebanon in the quarter-final, only for Tonga to hang on in a thriller to book a spot in the final four.
England's path to the semis has been relatively smooth, although they haven't been anywhere near their best since falling to Australia in the tournament opener.
They faced a tricky challenge in the form of PNG last week, but their quest to reach the decider for the first time since 1995 was rarely challenged as they survived a horror error rate to claim a comfortable 36-6 win.
Wayne Bennett has named the same 17 that took care of the Kumuls while Sio Siua Taukeiaho returns for Tonga in the front row.
Why Tonga can win: Speed, size, talent and belief; there are a number of reasons why Tonga can knock over England, but perhaps the most surprising factor on Saturday evening will be completion rates. After an error-riddled start against Scotland, Mate Ma'a have gotten through at least 80 per cent of their sets in each of the last three games. It mightn't seem like much but it's a huge stat for a team that likes to throw the ball around. Their ability to respect the football also means their forwards don't have to use as much petrol in defence; a nightmare scenario for opposition middle men. You'd expect ball control to be an area where England would dominate, but Wayne Bennett's men have been sloppy throughout the tournament and were lucky not to be punished by the Kumuls having completed just 57 per cent of their sets in the quarter-final win. If they continue to cough up the footy against Tonga then it will be curtains for their World Cup campaign.
Why England can win: Knockout football is usually won in the forwards and while the battle in the middle will be worth the price of admission, expect fireworks on the fringes when two of the most in form centre-wing pairings collide. The Konrad Hurrell-David Fusitua showdown with John Bateman and Ryan Hall will be fun, but it's the other flank that has mouths watering. They won a premiership at the Roosters, and it hasn't taken long for Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou to gel with the pair combining for seven tries and three assists on the left edge for Tonga. As good as they've been, England's right edge of Kallum Watkins and Jermaine McGillvary have been even better. The two have combined for nine tries and five assists and were responsible for England's win last week. McGillvary ran for 232 metres, had four line breaks, scored two tries and set up two more while his centre partner gained 193 metres, bagged a double and created two more in a stunning showing on the right flank. Both pairings are capable of coming up with huge plays, and Saturday's contest could very well come down to a moment of magic from one of the four electrifying outside backs.
 World Cup: Jason Taumalolo vs Sean O'Loughlin
Offloads, Tackle Breaks, All Run Metres, Tackles.
The history: Played 2; England 2; Tonga 0. The sides met twice back in the 2006 Federation Shield, with England's 'A' side winning on both occasions.
Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Sideline officials: Chris Butler and Robert Hicks
Televised: 7Mate – Live Coverage from 4pm.
NRL.com predicts: English fans could very well be drowning their sorrows by the time this match gets underway with their cricket side likely to have lost the opening Test inside three days, but we're predicting some better news in New Zealand with England set to grind their way to a seven-point win.