World Cup: Tonga v Cook Islands preview
Last Updated: 05/11/13 9:31am
World Cup giant-killers the United States are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the final match of second-round group fixtures in Leigh on Tuesday night.
The Tomahawks, given little hope of emerging from their pool, were booked on a flight out of Heathrow this Saturday but organisers are now hurriedly re-thinking those plans.
Instead of packing their bags, Terry Matterson's team of "no-hopers" will begin preparing for the unthinkable - a quarter-final with Australia - if Cook Islands fail to get the points in their cross-group match against Tonga at Leigh Sports Village.
Even if the Cook Islanders win, the American team will still top their group and go through to the last eight if they beat Scotland, another of the tournament surprise packets, in what is shaping up to be the most important match so far at Salford on Thursday.
The Tomahawks, who qualified for the 14th World Cup at the third attempt, have already claimed the scalps of Cook Islands and co-hosts Wales to defy all expectations and odds of 1,000-1 to win the title.
"We're booked on a flight for November 9 so we were due to leave before the pool stages were officially decided," USA spokesman Chris Garry said.
While the USA look certain to extend their stay, the losers at Leigh will be eliminated after both lost their opening matches.
Tonga went into the tournament with high hopes of setting up a quarter-final showdown with New Zealand but their shock defeat by Scotland means they need to win both their last two group games and are relying on other results to keep them alive.
"There's no excuses. We weren't good enough," Tonga captain Brent Kite said of the defeat in Workington.
"But we'll be wanting to put that right against the Cook Islands at Leigh Sports Village on Tuesday. We're looking forward to that game now."
Cook Islands coach David Fairleigh, the former St Helens forward, has rung the changes to the side that lost to the Tomahawks in Bristol last Wednesday.
Toulouse stand-off Jonathan Ford comes into the side to partner former Wakefield half-back Isaac John, with Brad Takairangi switching to centre in place of Wigan's Anthony Gelling, while Sydney Roosters' Chris Taripo takes over from Lulia Lulia on the wing and Eko Malu, of New Zealand Warriors, gets his chance on the bench.
The side will be led by Catalan Dragons second rower Zeb Taia.