Tonga have really cemented themselves as a threat in international rugby league over the last few years finally becoming the fourth hegemonic power the sport so desperately needed to shake things up outside of the three leading forces Australia, New Zealand and England.
They did that at the last World Cup in 2017 when they made the semi-finals and were unlucky to lose against England. Since then they’ve even toppled Australia and though the Green and Golds will still be the favourites for the tournament, Tonga will fancy their chances of reaching Old Trafford in November.
That’s due in part because they have a coach well versed in getting to Old Trafford in the shape of St Helens boss Kristian Woolf who is chasing a fourth consecutive title with the Saints over the next two weeks before joining Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins in the NRL.
His side are currently 2nd in the World Rankings and he has now named his initial squad for the tournament. Super League stars such as Mahe Fonua and the injured Manu Ma’u are notable absentees whilst York City Knights’ Ata Hingano also misses out.
13 of Tonga’s last World Cup squad feature whilst five Super League players have been named three of which work under Woolf at St Helens.
These are impact sub Agnatius Paasi, the versatile Will Hopoate who has been brilliant for Saints when fit in 2022 and former Leeds Rhinos star Konrad Hurrell who has rediscovered his best form under his national coach.
They are joined by Leeds’ David Fusitu’a who like Hopoate has been superb in Super League this year when fit. He’s hoping Leeds can win their semi-final tonight against Wigan so he can have a chance of playing in next week’s Grand Final.
The Super League contingent is concluded by Huddersfield’s Tui Lolohea who has had an outstanding season moving to fullback.
Former Salford and Warrington forward Ben Murdoch-Masila features as does Catalans bound Siosiua Taukeiaho.
Wakefield’s David Fifita’s twin Andrew is named alongside David’s namesake of the Gold Coast Titans.
Here’s the squad in full:
Talatau Amone (St George Illawarra Dragons), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks), David Fifita (Gold Coast Titans), Addin Fonua Blake (Warriors), Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans), David Fusitu’a (Leeds Rhinos), Siliva Havili (South Sydney Rabbitohs), William Hopoate (St Helens), Konrad Hurrell (St Helens), Eliesa Katoa (Warriors), Isaiya Katoa (Penrith Panthers), Sione Katoa (Cronulla Sharks), Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm), Oregon Kaufusi (Parramatta Eels), Keaon Koloamatangi (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Toluta’u Koula (Manly Sea Eagles), Tuimoala Lolohea (Huddersfield Giants), Soni Luke (Penrith Panthers), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Warriors), Tesi Niu (Brisbane Broncos), Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers), Haumole Olakau’atu (Manly Sea Eagles), Taniela Otukolo (Warriors), Agnatius Paasi (St Helens), Tevita Pangai Jr (Canterbury Bulldogs), Taniela Paseka (Manly Sea Eagles), Will Penisini (Parramatta Eels), Kotoni Staggs (Brisbane Broncos), Daniel Suluka-Fifita (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Moses Suli (St George Illawarra Dragons), Siosifa Talakai (Cronulla Sharks), Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Siosiua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys), Starford To’a (Wests Tigers), Christian Tu’ipulotu (Manly Sea Eagles), Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters), Stefano Utoikamanu (Wests Tigers).