Gold Coast Titans star David Fifita has been named in a powerful Mate Ma’a Tonga squad ahead of the upcoming World Cup in England.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf has chosen 38 players in an extended squad and faces a difficult task to trim the number to 24 before the tournament, with Fifita one of the new faces yet to represent the Pacific nation.
The former Queensland Origin forward joins a squad headed by Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo, Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake, Dolphins-bound Storm second-rower Felise Kaufusi and Sharks centre Siosifa Talakai.
Former Bulldogs back Will Hopoate is one of five Super League players chosen in the squad, including three from Woolf’s St Helens team that are chasing a third consecutive premiership – Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell and Agnatius Paasi.
Rabbitohs forwards Keaon Koloamatangi, Tevita Tatola and Siliva Havili have been named in the squad, along with the Sharks trio of Talakai, Andrew Fifita and Sione Katoa, who is sidelined by a knee injury.
Katoa is expected to be fit for the World Cup but Sydney Roosters second-rower Sitili Tupouniua is out after rupturing his ACL.
There are also injury clouds over Roosters winger Daniel Tupou (groin) and Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs (shoulder).
The squad includes 13 survivors from the 2017 World Cup campaign that changed the face of international rugby league.
Hull FC’s Mahe Fonua, who finished the season with an ankle injury, and York City’s Ata Hingano are notable omissions. Hull’s Manu Ma’u has a broken arm
After beating the Kangaroos in Australia’s last Test appearance in 2019, Tonga are No.2 in the IRL World Rankings and Woolf believes the island Kingdom can lift the Paul Barrière Trophy at Old Trafford on November 19.
Tonga are in a pool with Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands and Wales and are expected to face England and Samoa in the knockout stages of the tournament.
“I certainly know that at some stage, provided we reach our potential and play to our potential, we’re going to get the opportunity to be part of one of those games against one of those teams,” Woolf told RLWC2021.com. “The Tongan players want to play for Tonga and that’s a great position for us to be in.
“The team we’re going to put together for Tonga, that’s something to get excited about and look forward to because I think we’ve got a squad that’s going to be very hard to beat. Our challenge is to reach our potential.”
Mate Ma’a Tonga extended squad
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 Saints)
Konrad Hurrell (St Helens Saints)
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 Saints)
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).