New Zealand welcome Scotland to Christchurch on Saturday, looking to continue their perfect record ahead of the big showdown with Tonga in their last Pool B match next weekend. Scotland will look to cause a similar surprise to the Four Nations in 2016 where they drew 18-18.
New Zealand did enough last weekend against Samoa; despite the 38-8 scoreline, the Samoans were right in the game either side of halftime with the score at 10-4, and it took a burst of three tries in nine minutes for the Kiwis (from the 46th minute) to put the game out of reach.
Shaun Johnson was excellent after missing a lot of 2017 due to injury, and prop Martin Taupau continued his superb 2017 with a barnstorming effort. Only Jared Waerea-Hargreaves topped him for metres gained. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also looked good for the Kiwis.
Scotland toughed it out against Tonga in their first game. After being on the end of a savage halftime deficit, the Bravehearts fought back, only losing the second half 12-4. The experienced captain Danny Brough was one of their best, and they’ll look to his experience this weekend against an NRL-heavy line up.
New Zealand have made a few changes for this match: Dean Whare comes in for the unfortunate Gerard Beale after his horrific injury, Peta Hiku and Jason Nightingale get a chance on the wings, Te Maire Martin at five eighth instead of Kodi Nikorima, and Addin Fonua-Blake plus Elijah Taylor join the team on the bench and starting hooker respectively.
These sides have only met twice, but the last meeting saw Scotland surprising the Kiwis, drawing 18-18 in England (with Cowboys Lachlan Coote and Kane Linnett) as part of the Four Nations tournament. New Zealand won the only other encounter.
With New Zealand covering Scotland in experience in most positions, the best match up is the five eighth position where Te Maire Martin will oppose the highly-experienced Danny Brough. Martin has played just 25 NRL games and two Tests for New Zealand, and has shown glimpses of quality for North Queensland and Penrith in the NRL. Brough, who was good in a losing team against Tonga last weekend, has played 20 times for Scotland and has nearly 400 games experience in English rugby league. Experience v Potential.
New Zealand should have too much of everything for Scotland; with big name players like Johnson and Taupau in fine form last weekend, as long as they turn up with the right attitude they should have more than enough to win. New Zealand also have more to play for, needing to keep winning to top the group.
Prediction: New Zealand by 28
NEW ZEALAND V SCOTLAND
Saturday November 4, 5pm at Christchurch stadium
New Zealand squad: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 Jason Nightingale, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 Peta Hiku, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Martin Taupau, 9 Elijah Taylor, 10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11 Kenny Bromwich, 12 Joseph Tapine, 13 Adam Blair, 14 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 15 Russell Packer, 16 Addin Fonua-Blake, 17 Danny Levi, 18 Thomas Leuluai, 19 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 20 Simon Mannering, 21 Jordan Rapana
Scotland squad: 1 Alex Walker 2 Lewis Tierney 3 Ben Hellewell 4 Lachlan Stein 5 Matthew Russell 6 Danny Brough (C) 7 Oscar Thomas 8 Luke Douglas 9 Danny Addy 10 Ben Kavanagh 11 Jarred Anderson 12 Dale Ferguson 13 James Bell 14 Kane Bentley 15 Sam Brooks 16 Brandan Wilkinson 17 Johnny Walker 18 Andrew Bentley 19 Callum Phillips 20 Shane Toal 21 Frankie Mariano