Kangaroos to meet fire with fire against Tonga

By James Perry

The world champion Kangaroos are hoping to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since 2015.

A little over 24 hours from kickoff, the Kangaroos are focused on an improvement in their performance. 

Captain Boyd Cordner, who led his Roosters club to an NRL Premiership, and NSW to State of Origin glory this year, says, "It would be really nice to finish off with a win, especially after the loss last week."

Tomorrow night the Kangaroos will face Mate Ma'a Tonga for the very first time. They'll be met at Mt Smart Stadium by a sold out crowd, largely made up of Tongan fans.

Coach Mal Meninga says the way Tongan fans have responded this week proves it is great that the game will be played here.  

He says, "it's been totally dominated all week media-wise by [Tonga]."

He is excited by the prospect of playing in front of a sold-out crowd and says that is what his team were wanting. 

"That's what we want to do, put on a green and gold jersey and play in front of big crowds."

Cordner says the events of the week have shown the extent to which the Tongan fans have passion for their nation. 

"If you ask some of our boys with Tongan heritage- the stories that have come out this week- with obviously Felise [Kaufusi] and Tyson [Frizzell] saying that their families will be supporting Tonga," he says.

Meninga insists his side will be more than ready to meet the atmosphere and emotion that the crowd will provide when kickoff comes around. 

"We're not coming because we need to soak up the emotion, we're coming with our emotion.  You know we're playing for our country," he says.

After last weeks loss to the Kiwis, the Kangaroos have gone back to the training field to work on improving their game.

Meninga says his side has been focusing on what they can do to improve on their performance and haven't paid any attention to the Tongan players.  These include former Kangaroo Andrew Fifita, who changed allegiance on the eve of the World Cup last year and Jason Taumalolo, who did the same to the Kiwis.

"We know how great a player Andrew is and we know how important Taumalolo is to them and all the rest of the group but there hasn't been a huge focus on them at all.  It's been about what we need to do well to come up with a really good performance."

The Kangaroos last suffered repeat defeats in 2015, when the Kiwis beat them in the ANZAC test in Brisbane, having previously beaten the Australians in the Four Nations final in Wellington in 2014.

The historic game between Tonga and Australia begins at 7.45pm on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium.