Kristian Woolf believes “six” teams can compete for the World Cup thanks to current eligibility rules

Kristian Woolf believes his Tongan players should be proud that their efforts in 2017 has led to more players representing their heritage in 2022.

Tonga took the World Cup by storm in 2017, making the semi-finals and pushing England all the way before narrowly missing out on a spot in the final.

Their team was a collection of players who turned down tier one nations to represent Tonga and they reaped great rewards for their effort.

Head Coach Woolf believes eligibility rules have changed for the better and is proud of the platform his team has laid down.

“I think they can be extremely proud because they have changed the game in 2017,” Woolf exclaimed. “It’s great to see guys want to play for Samoa first and want to play for other nations first, I think what we have got now is six, seven, eight teams that can be really threatening and we’ve got a genuine World Cup.

The eligibility copes some criticism at times and I think it’s a little bit short sighted to be honest.

I’m one of the few coaches that has been around since 2013 when you look at the rules back then I think Will Hopoate is a great example where he wanted to play for Tonga but didn’t make Australia and didn’t play in the World Cup because of that.

“What we had in 2013 was three teams who was competitive and everyone else scratching around for the rest of the competition.

“What we have now is six, seven, eight teams who can all genuinely be in semi-finals and all be really competitive and beat each other. It’s what you want in a World Cup and that excites the fans and brings more viewers.”

Woolf is one of the big advocators for allowing players to be eligible for more than one nation and it has provided this World Cup with some amazing squads.

The Tongan coach believes this is the best way forward for the sport and will allow the international game to grow to new levels.

“I think you’ve got to ask yourself as a sport what you want from the international game to look like and what do we want World Cups to look like,” Woolf continued. “If you ask me I want it to look like what it looks like right now where we have teams who are competitive and can compete with big nations.

“It allows players to represent where they grew up in Queensland and New South Wales but also represent who they are as people and what they are proud to represent and the people they are proud to represent. I think we have it right and should keep it as it is.”

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