Rugby World Cup Pool A: New Zealand v Tonga
- Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
- Date: Friday 9 September
- Kick-off: 0930 BST
- Tournament coverage: Scores and reports on the BBC Sport website plus live text commentaries on selected games including all home nations matches; updates on BBC Radio 5 live; watch live on ITV1/ITV4; listen on TalkSport radio
New Zealand’s starting line-up is their oldest ever Rugby World Cup starting XV with an average age of 28 years and 189 days. This will be the first time they field a RWC starting line-up with an average age over 28. This is also the oldest ever Rugby World Cup starting line-up by any of the Tri Nations. Four of New Zealand’s starting XV – Tony Woodcock, Ali Williams, Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter – also started the All Blacks first and last matches at Rugby World Cup 2007. Carter, Williams and Brad Thorn, who will partner Williams in the second row, all started New Zealand’s previous RWC match against Tonga in 2003.
“He (Muliaina) has been one of the top full-backs in the world for some time, but he’s having a bit of a flat patch at the moment,” said coach Graham Henry, explaining his full-back’s absence. “But knowing Mils he will respond to that. He understands it is a competitive position. The other fellow in his one Test this year has played well.”
– Thorn will become the oldest All Black to play at the Rugby World Cup at 36 years and 218 days. He will be the first All Black to play a Rugby World Cup match aged over 34.
– New Zealand’s scrum half/fly half combination of Jimmy Cowan and Daniel Carter make their 25th Test appearance together, moving into outright second on the All Blacks all-time list behind Justin Marshall and Andrew Mehrtens (41).
– Both teams feature three players born in Auckland, two in each starting XV and one on each bench.
– The nine players in Tonga’s squad with RWC experience have all been named in the match day 22, seven in the starting line-up and two on the bench.
– The three Tonga players who played against New Zealand at RWC 2003 – Kisi Pulu, Ephraim Taukafa and Sukanaivalu Hufanga – have all been named in the match day 22. Hufanga (outside centre) and Taukafa (replacement hooker) have been named in the same positions.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Richard Kahui, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Isaia Toeava; Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Victor Vito.
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Anthony Boric, Sam Whitelock, Piri Weepu, Colin Slade, Cory Jane.
Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo; Viliame ‘Iongi, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Andrew Ma’ilei, Siale Piutau; Kurt Morath, Taniela Moa; Soane Tonga’uiha, Aleki Lutui, Taufa’ao Felise, Paino Hehea, Joseph Ti’neau, Sione Kalamafoni, Finau Maka (capt), Viliami Ma’afu.
Replacements: Ephraim Taukafa; Alisona Taumalolo; Kisi Pulu; Sione Timani; Samiu Vahafolau; Samisoni Fisilau; Alipate Fatafehi.
– New Zealand and Tonga have played on three previous occasions with New Zealand winning all three by an average margin of 74 points.
– New Zealand and Tonga have met twice at the Rugby World Cup with New Zealand winning both matches by an average of 60 points.
– New Zealand’s 102-0 victory in 2000 was their second-biggest win ever. The All Blacks defeated Japan by 128 points at Rugby World Cup 1995.
– Tonga have scored one try against New Zealand with Pierre Hola crossing in the second half of the Rugby World Cup 2003 match in Brisbane.
– New Zealand have scored 33 tries against Tonga, 13 and 15 in the two most recent matches respectively.
– Three All Blacks have scored 20 points or more in a match against Tonga: Tony Brown (32 in 2000), Leon MacDonald (29 in 2003) and Andrew Mehrtens (20 in 1999).
– Troy Flavell is the only All Black to score a hat-trick in a match against Tonga. He scored 15 points in the match at North Harbour in 2000.
– Ranked No.1 in the world, a position they have held more than all other nations combined.
– New Zealand are the only team to have won all of their Rugby World Cup pool matches (20).
– Their average winning margin in pool matches is 51.8 points, almost 18 more than any other team.
– New Zealand are the highest scoring team in Rugby World Cup history having scored 1711 points in their 36 matches, an average of 47.5 points per game.
– New Zealand have scored 232 Rugby World Cup tries, 79 more than second placed Australia.
– New Zealand have scored at least one try in their past 89 Tests and in 95 of the 96 Tests coached by Graham Henry.
– Graham Henry’s 84.4 per cent winning record coaching New Zealand is the best for any coach of a major nation in the professional era. His predecessor John Mitchell’s record of 82.1 per cent is the only other above 80 per cent.
– New Zealand have lost to only South Africa, Australia and France during Henry’s reign and have a winning record against all three.
– Ranked No.12 in the world, their best ever ranking.
– Tonga have played at five of the six previous Rugby World Cups, missing only the 1991 edition.
– They won one match at each of the 1995 and 1999 tournaments and won two matches for the first time in 2007.
– They have recorded four of their five narrowest Rugby World Cup losses at the past two tournaments.
– Tonga have alternated wins and losses in their past six matches, winning the last one 32-20 against Fiji.
– Eden Park hosted five matches during Rugby World Cup 1987 with New Zealand and France winning two matches each and Romania one.
– New Zealand’s two wins at the venue at RWC 1987 were by 64 points over Italy and by 20 points over France in the final.
– Eden Park will host 11 matches at RWC 2011, two Pool A matches, one match in each of the other three pools and then two quarter-finals, both semi-finals, the bronze final and the final. It’s total of 16 RWC matches will be a record, surpassing Murrayfield’s mark of 13.
– The All Blacks have won their last 22 Test matches at Eden Park, following an 18-18 draw with South Africa in August 1994. That match was preceded by a 23-20 defeat against France in July 1994.
– The All Blacks have collected 20 wins from as many attempts at Eden Park in the professional era (1996-2011).
– Tonga have not played a test match at Eden Park but have played three matches against New Zealand Maori, winning once and losing twice.
– If New Zealand reach the semi-finals they are guaranteed to play five matches at Eden Park which will equal Scotland’s record of playing five matches at Murrayfield at Rugby World Cups 1991 and 1999.-