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New Zealand full-back Israel Dagg and wing Richard Kahui showed they deserved their starting spots as they crossed for two tries apiece in the opening half, with fly-half Dan Carter adding a penalty and three conversions for a 29-3 half-time lead. Kurt Morath responded with a penalty for Tonga.
But the All Blacks were nowhere near as impressive after the break, with their disjointed attacking play and under-pressure scrum giving coach Graham Henry plenty of food for thought.
But they managed to add further tries from Jerome Kaino and Ma'a Nonu, while replacement Sona Taumalolo crossed for the visitors.
With the players having to wait for the formalities of a spectacular opening ceremony to be completed it was little surprise that there was a frantic start to proceedings.
A rush of blood from Tonga saw them take a quick line-out on their own line, with Taniela Moa's resulting clearance being charged down. That set up a penalty chance that Carter easily slotted for the opening points of the tournament.
The fly-half was soon paving the way for the opening try in the 11th minute. His pass saw wing Kahui make the initial break up the middle to link with Sonny Bill Williams, and when the ball came back left Dagg eased over for an unconverted score.
Some lovely inter-passing between Nonu, Williams and Isaia Toeava then sent Kahui over for the second try, Carter adding the extras for a 15-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Williams' audacious offloading skills were causing the Tonga defence huge problems, and they were in evidence again as his brilliant one-handed pass gave Dagg a second try on a plate, Carter again converting.
The All Blacks were soon over again as Dagg's out-the-back-door pass saw Kahui streak clear and drag full-back Vunga Lilo over the line, the try again converted by Carter.
Tonga did at least get on the scoreboard, as fly-half Kurt Morath, off target with an early attempt from distance, landed a penalty right on half-time.
The South Sea Islanders did well to repel strong surges by Williams and Richie McCaw early in the second half, before preventing an early contender for try of the tournament.
Sonny Bill Williams looped around lock Ali Williams on his own 10-metre line and slid a delicate grubber through for Toeava. The wing gathered but was clattered by some brave last-ditch defence.
Tonga then lost captain Finau Maka, who had been struggling with an Achilles problem, to injury and almost conceded another try moments later, but Toeava was adjudged to have had a foot in touch by the video referee.
The fifth try eventually arrived just before the hour mark thanks to more inspired play from the outstanding Kahui. The Chiefs three-quarter chipped over two defenders, regathered and flipped the ball inside for Kaino to cap his powerful display with a score. Carter struck the post with the simple conversion.
Tonga then enjoyed their best passage of the match as replacement Taumalolo forced Carter to spill the ball, the visitors spent phase after phase within sight of the line and eventually got their reward when Taumalolo burrowed through the fringe defence to dot down.
But New Zealand had the last word as Nonu finished a fine breakaway move, replacement Colin Slade adding the extras.
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw says he is excited to have the World Cup under way after his side's 41-10 win over Tonga. McCaw told ITV1: "It was a start, we had good patches, but in the second half we spent some time in their 22 but didn't capitalise, which is something to work on.
"Our defence was good, although it was disappointing to let them score, but we had had to defend for a while. But it's a start and that's all we can look at it as."
The Crusaders flanker was not overly concerned by the nature of his side's second-half performance, putting it down to over-excitement after the long wait for the tournament to begin.
He said: "It can happen when you are a few points up that you can expect things to happen when you make breaks instead of being ruthless. But we created opportunities and for the most part I thought it was good stuff.
"We are excited about getting under way, it's been a long time coming and to play in front of a crowd like this is pretty cool."
HeraldScotland will be providing special early morning coverage from Saturday's big game when Scotland open their campaign against Romania.