Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita to lead strong Mate Ma’a Tonga team into clash with Kiwis

By Radio New Zealand International

Tonga rugby league coach Krisitian Woolf has named five potential debutants in his 22 man squad for the upcoming international against New Zealand on 22 June.

The new faces in the squad include North Queensland utility John Asiata who has already played two internationals for Samoa.

The other players who could don the Mate Ma’a Tonga jersey for the first time are Manly’s Manase Fainu, Brisbane centre Kotoni Staggs, Gold Coast Titans’ prop Moeaki Fotuaika and Sydney Rooster Sitili Tupouniua.

While the majority of the squad ply their trade in Australia’s NRL, half Tuimoala Lolohea, will travel from his British club Leeds to take part in the Auckland test.

World Cup representatives Ata Hingano and Mahe Fonua were unavailable through injury. Team stalwart and former captain Sika Manu has also retired from international play.

Brisbane’s Joe Ofahengaue and Ben Murdoch Masila of the Warrington Wolves played in the historic test against Australia last year but are not in the squad.

However, Kristian Woolf said he was pleased with the squad he has been able to assemble.

“We have had a good core of players for Mate Ma’a Tonga team since the 2017 World Cup and we have been able to add some more depth this year,” he said.

The final squad will be named after this weekend’s NRL round.

The match will be the first time Tonga and New Zealand have met since the MMT upset the Kiwis 28-22 at the World Cup in Hamilton.

Last year Tonga travelled to Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium to take on the world champion Australians, eventually going down 34-16.

Tonga’s Andrew Fifita and Tevita Pangai Junior celebrate their upset win over the Kiwis at the 2017 World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Mate Ma’a Tonga team:

John Asiata (North Queensland Cowboys)

Manase Fainu (Manly Sea Eagles)

Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks)

Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles)

Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans)

David Fusitu’a (NZ Warriors)

Siliva Havili (Canberra Raiders)

Tuimoala Lolohea (Leeds Rhinos)

Will Hopoate (Canterbury Bulldogs)

Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels)

Robert Jennings (Wests Tigers)

Solomone Kata (NZ Warriors)

Sione Katoa (Penrith Panthers)

Manu Ma’u (Parramatta Eels)

Tevita Pangai Junior (Brisbane Broncos)

Kotoni Staggs (Brisbane Broncos)

Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Siosiua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters)

Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)

Peni Terepo (Parramatta Eels)

Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)

Sitili Tupouniua (Sydney Roosters)

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