Tonga ready to make Blair pay over RLWC insult
ADAM Blair is about to find out how much of a man Jason Taumalolo is.
The New Zealand forward all-but placed a target on his chest when he questioned Taumalolo's integrity after his switch to represent Tonga in the Rugby League World Cup.
Taumalolo's North Queensland clubmate Michael Morgan has warned the Kiwis to expect the wrath of the 115kg wrecking ball in what shapes as the most explosive World Cup clash in history.
The Daily Telegraph understands the pumped-up Tongans will do their best to silence the outspoken Blair in the early exchanges at a packed Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
"You don't want to poke the bear, that's for sure. We saw that through this year,'' said Morgan, when asked about Blair's taunts of Taumalolo.
"I spoke to him when he said he was thinking about (Tonga).
"There's always talk about players leaving their country of heritage to play for a stronger nation because of money, but he's done the opposite and still been sprayed for it.
"Both his parents are Tongans, he was born in New Zealand but played for them in the last World Cup.
"It's good he's done it. It wouldn't have been easy. He's copped a lot of flak from it.
"But it's been good for the tournament because that also had a part in Andrew Fifita doing the same thing. It's been good for the whole tournament and game of rugby league in general.''
There is more than Pacific pride at stake in this weekend's ding-dong battle. The winner has the potential to ensure a saloon passage to the final as they would not meet Morgan and Australia until the December 2 decider in Brisbane.
But the Tongans have not forgotten, or forgiven, Blair's pre-tournament gibe at $10 million man Taumalolo.
Taumalolo and Fifita, who was initially picked for the Kangaroos, declared on the eve of the Cup they would play for Tonga for just $30 a day.
Blair let rip on New Zealand radio and accused Taumalolo - the best forward in rugby league - of not being "man enough'' to let Kiwis coach David Kidwell know of his decision.
"You've got to be a man and own up to what you want to do," Blair told NewstalkZB last month.
"If you were man enough, you'd make the phone call and tell them. At this stage, it feels like we've been let down a lot. So do we let them back in the team?
"You're going to have to find some way to be able to trust them again, but does that cause issues and problems that we don't need?''
That interview has infuriated some in the Tongan camp who have made a point of discussing ways of singling out Blair.
Tonga put 50 points on Scotland and then Samoa 32-18 on the weekend with the pre-match ceremonial dances one of the best rugby league scenes all year.
Tonga also features Will Hopoate, Michael Jennings and Manu Ma'u, another top-shelf forward eligible for New Zealand.
Should Tonga win, they will likely host Lebanon in Christchurch before meeting England or Papua New Guinea in a semi-final in Auckland. If they lose to the Kiwis, Tonga will meet Lebanon and then Australia in the semi-final.