Tonga get their final crack at England today with Kristian Woolf’s side looking to earn a win at Headingley and prevent Shaun Wane’s side from landing the three nil series clean sweep.
Woolf’s side have already made history in that they have become the first ever tier two nation to tour England but they’ll want to return to Tonga with a win, however they’ll have to do it without their influential skipper Addin Fonua-Blake who misses out due to personal reasons.
The New Zealand Warriors prop has had an incredible season in the NRL but has made headlines in the past few days down under given his request to leave the Warriors, the 27-year-old wanting to move to a Sydney club to be closer to his family.
Whilst Fonua-Blake will miss out sadly it was confirmed by Woolf that exciting young prospect Latu Fainu will feature with the 18-year-old prodigy set to make his international debut, a brilliant achievement to top off an incredible year for the youngster.
At yesterday’s captain’s run attended by Serious About Rugby League, Woolf was full of praise for the teenager, explaining: “Oh look, Latu has been extremely impressive since he’s come into camp. He’s a very classy kid, you can see why there’s a bit of hype around him and why the Tigers worked so hard to get him and he’s fit into our camp terrifically well as well.”
Woolf references West Tigers who broke the bank to acquire Fainu and his brother in an incredible $4 million package deal, each brother tied down to a four-year contract on a whopping $500,000 per year as per NRL 360’s James Hooper.
It’s evident the talent that the youngster has given that huge wage but Woolf has confirmed that Fainu could well have starred earlier in the series.
“He probably would have played last week there’s a couple of reasons why he didn’t but he’s certainly shown that class and shown that he’s right up to the occasion and I’m pretty excited to see how he goes actually,” Woolf explained.
“Dion (Teaupa) is healthy but we just decided to give Latu an opportunity. As I said, he deserved one last week. It was a real 50-50 call for the first game to be honest.
“He did a great job as soon as he came into camp. He’s fit in really well and he’s really close to a few of the older players through his brother. It was a 50-50 call and it’s a deserved opportunity.
“He’s a good footy player so he’s going to be nervous because obviously it means a lot to him. When I told him he was going to play, you could see how much it meant to him straight away and there’s a bit of a family history there that adds to it as well. So I know his mum and dad and his family are extremely proud of him.
“All we want him to do is go out and do what he does every week. He’s a great player and he’s here for a reason and he’s an extremely talented player. He backs himself and that’s what we’ve seen at junior level. That’s what we’ve seen in his opportunities to play New South Wales Cup and he’s done an outstanding job there and that’s why he’s here. So if he backs that up he’ll do well.”