St Helens and Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has claimed that Tonga are “in a position” to win the World Cup next year.
The two-time Super League winning coach told AAP that Tonga have a good chance of winning the World Cup next year their talented squad plays to their best.
Traditionally there has only been three major contenders for World Cup glory in rugby league with Australia, New Zealand and England being seen as the most likely destinations for the most prestigious trophy with only Australia and New Zealand getting their hands on the trophy over the last five decades.
However, in recent years Tonga have shown their quality pushing England all the way in the 2017 World Cup semi-final and going further in the competition than new Zealand who lost to Fiji in the quarter-finals of the tournament that year.
Since then, Tonga have beaten World Champions Australia doing something England or Great Britain have failed to do since 2006.
Now seen as a four-horse race, Tonga are seriously considered contenders for the World Cup next year and the St Helens coach has stated he believes his side have what it takes to win the trophy as he stated in an interview with AAP.
Wolf said: “The interest and commitment hasn’t wavered even with the lack of Tests.
“The future there is really bright and I can only see us getting stronger and having better depth.
“We’ve got a number of players breaking through for their club sides going deep into finals and doing an outstanding job.
“I don’t want to leave anyone out but you’ve got Moeaki Fotuaika, who’s been great the last few years for the Titans.
“Junior Tatola at Souths has been with us in the past. On top of that you’ve got Haumole Olakau’atu, Moses Suli, Keaon Koloamatangi, Siosifa Talakai and then there’s Junior Amone at the Dragons.
“We know we are going to put together a good side and if we get the best out of those players we can go to the World Cup and put ourselves in a position to win.”
On top of those NRL stars he also has Super League stars like Tui Lolohea and Konrad Hurrell available and he and Hurrell will be working together this year at St Helens after he signed the centre from Leeds on a one-year deal. Hurrell was named in the Dream Team in 2019 and 2020 helping the Rhinos to the Challenge Cup trophy in 2020.
Together at the Totally Wicked Stadium, they’ll be aiming to deliver an unprecedented fourth consecutive Super League title to St Helens whilst Woolf strives to be the first coach in Super League to win three Super League titles in a row.
Woolf will return to his stomping ground during the World Cup with Tonga set to play in St Helens during the tournament as they look to win Group D taking on the likes of Papua New Guinea and Wales. If they can secure top spot they’ll meet the runners-up of Group A in the quarter-finals which could be Samoa or France.