5 Oct 2017

Kidwell tried to get Taumalolo on side

4:30 pm on 5 October 2017

The Kiwis rugby league world cup campaign is in disarray with coach David Kidwell admitting he was blindsided by the star forward's Jason Taumalolo defection to Tonga.

Kidwell today named a squad which includeds five debutants for the tournament which will be jointly hosted by New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

But it's missing some big name players who have deserted the Kiwis.

When the Kiwis won the 2008 world cup it was described as a rugby league miracle.

The Kiwis celebrate their 2008 World Cup win.

The Kiwis celebrate their 2008 World Cup win. Photo: Photosport

The Kiwis it seems will need another one if they're to repeat the effort in 2017.

David Fusitu'a, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Manu Ma'u were all in line to join Jason Taumololo in the Kiwis but have now pledged their world cup allegiance to Tonga.

Australian media reports have suggested the players made a pact to play for Tonga after Kiwis coach David Kidwell suspended teamates Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor from the world cup for breaching team protocol earlier in the year.

Bromwich and Proctor were banned over allegations of buying drugs at a Canberra nightclub following the Kiwis test loss to Australia earlier this year.

Kidwell says he tried several unsuccessful attempts to get hold of Taumalolo, who has played ten tests for New Zealand, to discuss why he was turning his back on the Kiwis.

Kiwis coach David Kidwell

Kiwis coach David Kidwell Photo: Photosport

"That's the most disappointing thing, I respect his decision, but I think a conversation between myself and him would have been a good thing to have....as far as we were concerned Jason was part of our world cup team." said Kidwell.

Kidwell has won just one of his six tests as coach of the national side and accepts there was not universal acceptance of his deciscion to ban Bromwich and Proctor but he won't resile from it.

Jason Taumalolo was key to North Queensland reaching the NRL grand final.

Jason Taumalolo was key to North Queensland reaching the NRL grand final. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2017 www.photosport.nz

"Everyone has their own opinion but at the end of the day we have made that strong decision for the jersey and we are trying to build a new culture

Kiwi spirit here and we are not going to condone that behaviour."

The Tonga coach is Kristian Woolf said he was unaware of Taumalolo's move to Tonga being a rebuke of Kidwell.

"There certainly hasn't been any real push from my end (to lure players to Tonga). I think Jason has been the catalyst for it and he's been the first to jump, because everyone knew he was going to be picked for New Zealand but he came out and ssaid that he was going to play for Tonga and gave his reasons why and I guess it took just one bloke to do that and with someone of Jason's profile, it made other guys realise that's what they wanted to do as well," said Woolf.

In a statement on Wednesday, Taumalolo justified his decision by declaring his wish to develop rugby league in Tonga saying he hoped to continue playing for both countries in the future.

Benji Marshal 2017.

Benji Marshal 2017. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Former Kiwis international Benji Marshall has labelled Taumalolo's move as disrespectful.

While the defections to Tonga will take a toll on the Kiwis world cup title hopes, it certainly adds greater interest to the tournament and plenty of spice to the clash between the two sides in Hamilton early next month.

The Kiwis opening match of the World Cup is against Samoa in Auckland in just over three weeks time.