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Wing: You've got to love what Tonga bring to the table

Tonga's upset over Great Britain last week was a huge moment for the international game but an even bigger challenge awaits as they try to replicate that against the Kangaroos this Saturday.

I love watching the Pacific Island nations like Tonga and Samoa – teams led by their forwards and their passion. They throw the ball around and play exciting footy and that's a breath of fresh air.

It's a reflection of how far these teams have come that players are now choosing Tonga and Samoa as their first option, rather than waiting to see if they make the New Zealand teams first.   

A lot of credit has to go to guys like Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and Siosiua Taukeiaho.

They are leaders of the international game and to reject bigger money and at times bigger opportunities to represent their heritage has led other players to follow.

And while I could never go against Australia, I'd really love to see Tonga put on a show this Saturday because it would be great for the international game.

Match Highlights: Tonga Invitational v Great Britain

I think the way they played to beat a Wayne Bennett-coached Great Britain shows they're on the right track and they'll be looking to do something similar, but they'll need to take another quantum leap to compete with the world's best team.

The Aussies have a clear edge in the playmaking department with Cameron Murray, Daly Cherry-Evans and Wade Graham calling the shots.

Like a lot of smaller league nations, Tonga is crying out for a dominant playmaking combination that can control the pace and momentum of a game. Until they have one, they have to keep playing to their strengths - play outside the box and use their natural flair and ability to stretch the Roos defence.

That creates a bit of a catch-22 because they need to throw it around a bit like we saw with that incredible try they scored last weekend, but they can't afford to make errors because the Kangaroos will punish them for it.

If they make back-to-back errors the Aussies will start to grind them down - suddenly the forwards who were big and fast and mobile and skilful become big and slow and the Aussies will starve them out of the game.

It's important when they do eventually make an error they make the next set a completion set – just hold the ball and get to a kick and get back in the grind, rather than coming up with another error when you're trying to fix the mess with a low-percentage play.

Australia v Tonga Invitational

If they do get their share of the ball, those forwards like Taukeiaho and Taumalolo and Fifita are stepping and offloading and putting guys through holes and looking light on their feet.

The coach needs to encourage them to use those skills to generate offloads and second phase and fast play-the-balls because that's how you upset a really polished and structured defence like Australia.

He's got to keep it simple for the halves, too.

Tui Lolohea and Tesi Niu played pretty well last week even though they didn't create much.

Murray to debut as Foxx & Vaughan prepare to take down ‘big’ Tonga

Whether it's Niu again or Ata Hingano plays it needs to be a similar plan – make sure you're there to take the last-play kicks, and just get it right.

That has to be the focus for the halves above all else - get a decent kick away, follow with a good kick-chase, get through a decent defensive set and get the ball back.

In the past, Australian teams knew that sides like Tonga and Samoa wouldn't be able to go the full 80 and we'd get them at the back end.

But now you have guys like Taukeiaho, who plays every week in the Roosters system and puts up huge numbers, or Daniel Tupou on the wing who's been so consistent. So many of these players are playing in the same professional systems the Kangaroos players are and it's showing in their performances.

They've got more guys coming through with that education and understanding from a professional environment, and when you add that to their natural size and flair, the future looks bright for the passionate Tongans.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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