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Tonga could be the team to watch at RLWC

Tonga could be the team to watch at this years Rugby League World Cup

Fifita was named in Australia’s World Cup squad and, as recently as June, Taumalolo was photographed draped in a Kiwi flag as part of a publicity drive to promote the tournament.

Both of them – along with numerous others eligible to play for New Zealand – opted to play for Tonga instead.

A straight-faced Kangaroos boss Mal Meninga said he respected Fifita’s decision, while Kiwi boss David Kidwell admitted he had been left in the dark by it all.

The Samoa-Tonga heavyweight clash on November 4 was expected to provide plenty of fireworks before the star-studded team lists were revealed and will now be unmissable.

And Tonga’s duel with the Kiwis a week later is already being billed as a not-to-be-missed grudge match.

It probably is not great for Scotland, who are in Tonga’s group – and it means the Tongans are likely to be extremely dangerous opponents for any of the top sides.

It could be good news for England given it means the Kiwis have a weaker-than-expected squad, while a team shaping up to nudge their way into the top three has surely got to be good news for the international game.

Despite the hype, Taumalolo and Fifita played just 20 minutes each in Tonga’s 16-6 World Cup warm-up win against Italy in Far North Queensland on Friday night.

Both were solid; Fifita earned a huge cheer when he sent Italian defenders flying in the first hit-up of the match, while Taumalolo made plenty of metres despite two nervous knock-ons.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf didn’t want to burn out his two most destructive stars.

“Both those guys have played a lot of footy this year,” said Woolf. “I didn’t want to leave them out there and flog them but it’s good for them to get out, get some contact and be a part of the team.”

Tonga will open their Cup campaign against Scotland in Cairns on Sunday.


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