NSW Origin stars Daniel Tupou and Kotoni Staggs have been named in the Mate Ma’a Tonga team for the upcoming Test against New Zealand in Auckland.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf named a 25-man squad ahead of the June 25 Test, with Tupou named on the wing and Staggs at five-eighth – despite the pair playing for the Blues in last week’s opening Origin match.
Manly second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu and Cronulla centre Siosifa Talakai, who have both been mentioned as contenders to join the NSW squad for Origin II in Perth on June 26, have also been included along with the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Addin Fonua-Blake and Tevita Pangai jnr.
Under international eligibility rules, players can play for both their state and Tonga.
Tonga will be coached by caretaker coach Dean Young for this match with Woolf unavailable because of English Super League duties with St Helens.
Woolf said Tonga had named its strongest available squad as the Pacific nation looks towards providing the best possible squad for the end-of-season World Cup in England.
“We have named a powerful squad that includes experienced players who have helped Tonga to victories in the past,” Woolf said.
“There is also a sprinkling of new players in the squad who will be important as we move forward in a World Cup year and beyond.
If as many of our players as possible are playing representative football next week, the stronger our World Cup squad will be.
“There are players that can play both State of Origin and for Tonga and a decision on where they play will be made by Sunday when both interstate and international teams are selected for next week’s representative matches.
“What we don’t wish to happen is that players who have this dual eligibility are not picked in one squad and then miss out on being available to play in another other team.
Mate Ma’a Tonga
Tolotau Koula (Sea Eagles)
Daniel Tupou (Roosters)
Siosifa Talakai (Sharks)
Mosese Suli (Dragons)
Sione Katoa (Sharks)
Kotoni Staggs (Broncos)
Talatau Amone (Dragons)
Siosiua Taukieaho (Roosters)
Siliva Havili (Rabbitohs)
Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors)
Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters)
Keaon Koloamatangi (Rabbitohs)
Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)
Soni Luke (Panthers)
Haumole Olakau’atu (Sea Eagles)
Tevita Pangai jnr (Bulldogs)
Tevita Tatola (Rabbitohs)
Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans)
Will Penisini (Eels)
Isaiya Katoa (Panthers)
Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers)
Starford To’a (Wests Tigers)
Christian Tuipulotu (Sea Eagles)
Eliesa Katoa (Warriors)