The Test series between England and Tonga concludes on Saturday and while we know England have already got the spoils wrapped up there is still pride and much more for the two sides to play for at Headingley Stadium.
England took the opening two matches of the series but you would imagine that Tonga haven’t come right the way over to England to tamely go home with a 3-0 defeat so this should still be competitive despite the series having been won.
After a bit of a patchy performance in St Helens in the opening game, England will have been much happier with their showing in the second one where they got in front early and never really looked like they were going to relinquish the lead. There were still one or two sketchy periods of play but that is going to happen because they haven’t been together as long as they would be for say a World Cup and the conditions in Huddersfield were greasy.
The big positive for England is that they have won both matches without their captain George Williams and one or two others in the second game who missed out. Williams returns from this one and all of a sudden they will have a world class half-back to lead them around the park. Conditions are going to be tough during this match so the kicking game and smart skills of Williams could be something that benefits England here.
It is fair to say Tonga will be disappointed with their showing in the second game. They couldn’t stop coughing up ball in the first half and in the end their discipline got them. In tough conditions they kept on giving set restarts away and at this level the more you do that the more you’ll be punished. Tonga will be most disappointed with their second effort because they weren’t far away from winning the opening game and should have come on for the run but that didn’t really happen.
You only have to look at their form of the haka at the beginning of the match to know that Tonga are a proud bunch though and they won’t want to go home with nothing to show for their efforts so I would be surprised if they are not a good deal better here. We know they have the physicality to match England but they will need to show a lot more creativity in the halves if they are going to leave English shores with a consolation victory.
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England are likely to make a number of changes to their side for this match. They will be without Victor Radley and Toby King through injury but they do have their captain George Williams available. Ben Currie, Morgan Smithies and Tyler Dupree could all be involved too.
Tonga coach Kristian Wolff has kept his cards close to his chest throughout this series and nothing has changed in that regard here. He could go back in with the same XIII and ask them to perform much better than they did in Huddersfield.
I’ve been keen on Tonga so far in this series but I was always waiting to be on England in this final game and I’m more than happy to take them to cover a converted try. A wounded Tonga might come out all guns blazing in the first 20 minutes or so here but Shaun Wane isn’t stupid and he’ll have his side prepared for that, but the longer the game goes on the more I expect George Williams to have a huge impression on the contest and that can be the difference.
I’m a little surprised that England are only being asked to cover a converted try given that they did that in the last game and I’m convinced they will be a better team with George Williams in it. He has the platform to show why he has been seen as one of the best players in the world and against a Tonga side who really struggled to create anything last week I do expect the England captain to be the difference here. I’ll take England to cover the converted try.
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