15/08/2022

New Zealand face Tonga in what will be a very passionate match. (Image: NZRL Website)

The 2022 Representative Round continues with the international matches. Here are the key matchups to look out for.

The NRL’s Representative Round has a multitude of international games this weekend and the official squads and team news for this round have been released.

As the 16 premiership teams and women’s teams take a one-week break, the best players have been selected to represent their country.

Here are the key matchups to look out for in the four international matches this weekend.

Kiwi Ferns v Mate Ma’a Tonga

Annetta Nu’uausala vs Tegan Dymock

The battle of the front-rowers is going to be a matchup to keep an eye on in the passionate game we are anticipating. Physicality and metre gain is going to be two pivotal principles for both teams, including the Kiwi Ferns.

Kiwi Ferns front-rower Tegan Dymock played for the St George Dragons in the recent NRLW season. She only played three games, starting on the bench. We will most likely see a strong start from her before she subs off around the 15-20 minute mark.

With a small number of touches, Dymock gets through the work she is tasked with in the game, something that traditionally the game loves, with forwards making several metres.

Dymock will be matched up against Annentta Nu’uausala, who played for the Newcastle Knights in the recent NRLW season. She is one of the taller and strongest forwards in the game.

Roxette Murdoch vs Shannon Muru

The more anticipated matchup will be the battle of the back-rowers.

Roxette Murdoch is a valuable bench contributor for the Broncos in the NRLW and has shown her ability to break through the line and hard to tackle, gaining field position easily for her team. She also has an offloading ability, which Tonga will have to contain as well as her hard-running game.

Shannon Muru has yet to play in the NRLW, however for the Rabbitohs in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership competition. Muru has shown she can match Murdoch’s skillset.

If Muru does want to have a presence in this game, she will have to have a strong running game to help ensure Mata Ma’a Tonga gets the upper hand.

New Zealand v Mate Ma’a Tonga

Dylan Brown vs Kotoni Staggs

Dylan Brown is currently having his best season yet in his short career. With his defensive game being as high quality as it is and having a solid attacking game, having a quick first step and side-step game, Brown will have a lot to showcase in this matchup.

With a ball runner in halfback Jahrome Hughes, their set plays should be smooth and have a lot of space for the both of them to play eyes-up footy and be in an unstructured offence.

Kotoni Staggs although has not played much footy at five-eighth but has a similar game to a six in the current demand of this sport. His ability to create opportunities for himself and others when he receives the ball in a spaced-out in-the-line offence that the Broncos run.

It will be interesting to see Staggs’ playmaking and facilitating ability in this matchup, especially with his halfback Talatau Amone normally plays five-eighth for the St George Dragons.

Isaiah Papali’i vs Keaon Koloamatangi

Papali’i is one of the best forwards in the game. His productive workhorse game helps Parramatta play almost any style it wants.

The 23-year-old’s ability to ball play and be part of the ball movement offence has helped improve Parramatta’s attack, something it hasn’t had in past seasons. Papali’i can play anywhere in the forward pack, especially in the middle.

Koloamatangi has shown he can play that role when we’ve seen the Rabbitohs play at their best, however, he plays a hard-working productive back rower role that most players in this position play.

Where we will see a difference is how the pair will be used in their respective offences. Koloamatangi is used as lead runner or decoy in set plays, while recently, we have seen Papali’i ball play as a lock forward and move the ball to his five-eighth or halfback.

Joseph Tapine vs Jason Taumalolo

In the All-Star game earlier this year, we saw Joseph Tapine be a ball player and strong runner in the middle that also contributes on the defensive end. He is always everywhere and will do anything to be at any place at any time during the game. Traditionally a front-rower at club level, we are seeing his game and skillset evolve, allowing him to be one of the more versatile forwards in the game.

Jason Taumalolo plays with both old school and new school tendencies. He can run up the middle and get metres with his strength, and also ball play.

What separates these two is Taumalolo’s ball-carrying ability in open space. If Tapine can help move the ball from the middle and control the pace of the game, that will be a big difference in the outcome of the game.

Samoa v Cook Islands

Anthony Milford vs Reece Joyce

Anthony Milford since joining the Knights has been a solid addition to their offence. At his best, he plays eyes-up and breaks through the line and opens up the field with his quick first step and manoeuvring.

If Milford can control the pace of the game and play fast-break open field footy, Samoa can maintain its control of the game.

Reece Joyce is a name that you might not recognise. A contestant on the 2016 show “NRL Rookie” where over 1200 contestants applied to be part of a show to compete for an NRL contract. Since then, we haven’t seen much of him.

Joyce’s skill set consists of being an all-around player, who does not excel at one skill specifically. If he can control the game with his kicking and organising the offence, there is a chance the Cook Islands can make this game a close contest.

Papua New Guinea v Fiji

Justin Olam vs Waqa Blake

This centre battle is going to be an interesting one to watch.

Justin Olam is one of the best centres in the game, with his physicality, strength, and defence, he is one of the best role players in the game. He fits in any system and will contribute to every aspect of the game.

What will be interesting to watch out for is when the 28-year-old has the ball in his hands, whether he will receive it in set plays or the line and be able to play eyes-up and create for himself and his teammates.

Waqa Blake is a role player for the Parramatta Eels and has shown his versatility as a centre and winger. His off-ball ability and ability to maximise opportunities in small windows to score tries or assist them. If the high kicks go his way, the 27-year-old can elevate and play a high-flyer role, which will be a huge asset for Fiji and its offensive variability.

Kyle Laybutt vs Kevin Naiqama

Kyle Laybutt is one of the more versatile players in this match. He can play five-eighth, prop, centre, halfback, and dummy-half.

The 26-year-old plays for the Townsville Blackhawks in the Intrust Super Cup and has a strong ability in creating opportunities for his teammates and a kicking game that creates better field positioning for his team. If Laybutt can get his kicking game on point, kicking to corners, placing the ball in space for his teammates to chase, and creating a defensive intensity to start the game, Papua New Guinea can make it hard for Fiji to counter with a halves combination that does not play those positions normally.

Kevin Naiqama is an experienced versatile player, showing his all-around ability in the Super League and the NRL. Naiqama has shown the ability to play off-ball and maximise in small windows playing in the centre and wing positions.

Naiqama when playing centre has shown his ability to move the ball and read the defence to make mature decisions. If Nautu’a Masima, the halfback for Fiji can have a strong kicking game and create space on the right edge, Naiqama will have a great amount of space to control the game from the left edge and open up opportunities for his teammates.

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