10 Oct 2019

Tonga at full strength for league Tests

6:25 pm on 10 October 2019

NRL stars Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita spearhead a full-strength Tonga invitational squad to take on Australia and Great Britain in New Zealand after a potential player boycott never materialised.

Andrew Fifita leads the Tongan Sipi Tau ahead of the test against Australia in Auckland last year.

Andrew Fifita leads the Tongan Sipi Tau ahead of the test against Australia in Auckland last year. Photo: Photosport

The restoration of coach Kristian Woolf ensured Tonga could name an imposing 21-man squad featuring 17 members of the 2017 World Cup party.

Tonga play Great Britain in Hamilton on 26 October and the Kangaroos at Eden Park in Auckland a week later.

Siosiua Taukeiaho, David Fusitu'a, Will Hopoate, Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou, Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai Jnr and Kotoni Staggs are other established NRL players to boost the Tonga Invitational XIII squad for their two-Test schedule.

Woolf's reinstatement following a dispute with code's former governing body in the Pacific Island nation threatened to decimate the squad after Taumalolo and Fifita led a potential boycott.

But after the Rugby League International Federation intervened last month, the new Tonga Ma'a Tonga Rugby League was established to run the game, leading to Woolf's return.

"The players are happy and relieved this matter has been resolved and we can focus on what we need to do - play the best footy we can for our families and our people," Taumalolo told the NRL website.

"The best possible team will be taking the field. We are pumped and focused on these two major games and have plenty of motivation to play our best."

Tonga Rugby League coach Kristian Woolf.

Tonga Rugby League coach Kristian Woolf. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Woolf said he was delighted to have assembled a squad capable of challenging Great Britain and Australia.

"This is a great opportunity for us to go up against two of the best teams in the world," he said.

"Australia are the top-ranked team on the planet, and we also get to face the Great Britain League Lions, an outfit that has not been together since 2007.

"Not only will these Tests be historic, they will be about uniting a country - all our team members want to do is make the wonderful people of Tonga proud."

Tonga Invitational XIII squad: John Asiata, Andrew Fifita, Addin Fonua-Blake, David Fusitu'a, Siliva Havili, Ata Hingano, Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Michael Jennings, Sione Katoa, Tuimoala Lolohea, Manu Ma'u, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai Jnr, Kotoni Staggs, Tevita Tatola, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Jason Taumalolo, Daniel Tupou, Sitili Tupouniua.