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'Seriously strong enough to be pushing Australia': Kiwis a threat after demolishing Tonga

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Kiwis returned to international rugby league with a dominant 26-6 win over Tonga off the back of a record-breaking performance by fullback Joey Manu.

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Playing their first game in two and a half years, the home side raced out to a 12-0 lead after seven minutes in front of packed Mt Smart Stadium despite a large contingent of support for Mate Ma’a Tonga.

Without any Warriors players, the new look Kiwis were impressive with Melbourne Storm playmaker Jahrome Hughes at halfback and Parramatta’s Dylan Brown at five-eighth .

Former Origin great and Australian international Sam Thaiday had high praise for the Kiwis, claiming it was the ‘best Kiwis team’ he had seen in a long time and said the halves pairing is one he wants to see continue.

“This is the best Kiwis team I’ve seen for a while,” former NRL great Sam Thaiday told Channel 9’s Sunday Footy Show.

“There is a huge Melbourne contingent in this team as well. That halves pairing is absolutely amazing and you throw Joey Manu in at the back, he ran for over 300 metres.

“He’s an absolute freak. He will probably play fullback for the Roosters but they’ve got the best fullback in the world there at the moment in James Tedesco.

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“The Kiwis were absolutely brilliant in this one.

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“It actually makes me excited for the end of the year, to see a great, strong Kiwis team going into this World Cup. If the Kiwis are strong, it actually makes the World Cup a lot better.

NRL journalist Andrew Webster claimed that the Kiwis team was “seriously strong enough to be pushing Australia” to which Thaiday agreed.

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“Yeah 100 per cent,” the former Broncos clubman said.

“That’s why I said I was excited by this New Zealand team, if New Zealand are good, it makes Australia better. It makes England better. All these other top tier nations want to play better.

“I love this halves combination, I’d like to see it going forward. Again off the back of the big boys up the middle. They will really shake things up at the World Cup this year.”

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