Kieran Read
Kieran Read to captain the All Blacks against Tonga. Getty

Defending champions New Zealand are aiming to make it four wins out of four when they take on Tonga at St James' Park in Newcastle.

Where to watch New Zealand v Tonga

New Zealand v Tonga starts at 8.00pm BST on Friday 9 October. Live coverage is available on ITV HD and BBC Radio Five Live.


The All Blacks have already sealed their place in the quarter-finals of the competition, having taken 14 points from their three games in Pool C so far, but could still do with a win at St James' Park to secure top spot ahead of Argentina, who take on bottom side Namibia on Sunday afternoon.

Head coach Steve Hansen however has stressed the importance of his side continuing to build momentum going into the knock out stages, which could be bad news a Tonga side that conceded 45 points to Argentina last time out.

Fourth-placed Tonga are in need of a minor miracle if they wish to extend their own campaign beyond this weekend. After seeing Georgia leapfrog them into third after recovering from 6-0 down to beat Namibia 17-16 on Wednesday, Mana Otai's side dropped to fourth place in Pool C. That not only effectively ended their 2015 campaign but leaves their participation in the next instalment of the competition in doubt too with only the top three teams in each group qualifying for Japan 2019.

A mathematical miracle whereby Tonga beat the All Blacks and earn a bonus point while Argentina fail to get a point in their clash with Namibia could still see them creep into second. But disappointment is highly likely to beckon.

In team news, Steve Hansen has made six changes to the side that started in the 43-10 win over Georgia last Friday. Skipper Richie McCaw is the most notable absentee due to a hip injury, with Sam Cane coming in at open side flanker. Kieran Read picks up the captain's armband in his absence.

Prop Charlie Faumuina is also unavailable due to a hamstring problem, but otherwise Hansen has opted for a strong XV with centre Ma'a Nonu in line to make his 100<sup>th Test appearance. For Tonga there is just the one change, with inside centre Latiume Fosita replacing Sione Piukala.

Tonga toiled against Argentina last time out. Getty


New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith; 1 Tony Woodcock, 2 Dane Coles, 3 Owen Franks, 4 Luke Romano, 5 Sam Whitelock, 6 Jerome Kaino, 7 Sam Cane, 8 Kieran Read (capt).

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

Tonga: 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Latiume Fosita, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Soane Tonga'uiha, 2 Elvis Taione, 3 Halani Aulika, 4 Tukulua Lokotui, 5 Joseph Tuineau, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Nili Latu (capt), 8 Viliami Ma'afu.

Replacements: 16 Paula Ngauamo, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Sitiveni Mafi, 20 Jack Ram, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Viliami Tahitua, 23 Will Helu.

What the coaches say

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen: "We've had a very heavy workload in the last two weeks on the training pitch and a couple of very physical games, which has been great.

"But this week we've been looking to freshen up the group and really concentrate on key parts of our game that we expect will deliver a quality, 80-minute performance on Friday night.

"We know the Tongans will be very physical and bring everything to this final pool match. One only has to remember their [win in the] last pool match against France in 2011 to know that if you don't turn up, they will make life difficult for you."

Tonga coach Mana Otai: "The word we use often is belief. We showed by beating France in the 2011 World Cup it is possible, and we are positive thinkers. Having done that to France we know we can do anything, and Japan have already shown us against South Africa in this tournament that anything is possible.The difference is that France weren't as aware of the potential threat of Tonga. The All Blacks are far more aware but it is still possible."