Jason Taumalolo has confirmed his allegiance to Tonga ahead of next weekend’s Pacific Rugby League Test in Sydney.
The North Queensland Cowboys backrower turned his back on New Zealand to play for Mate Ma’a Tonga at last year’s World Cup, helping them upset the Kiwis in Hamilton and reach the tournament semi finals.
New Kiwis coach Michael Maguire had been hoping to convince the 25 year old to add to his ten test tally for New Zealand but Taumalolo has kept the faith with Tonga, whom he helped reach the World Cup semi finals.
“The World Cup last year, I’d never been a part of something like that before, it was a really special experience,” Taumalolo said.
“I’m very keen for the game in a couple of weeks. It’s been a while since the World Cup so I’m excited to see all the boys again and have everyone back together in camp.”
Taumalolo’s decision to represent his Tongan heritage became a catalyst for the likes of Andrew Fifita, David Fusi’tua and Siosiua Taukeiaho to follow suit.
Kiwis World Cup prop Addin Fonua-Blake is the latest to switch black for red, with the Manly front-rower to represent the Kingdom against Toa Samoa in Campbelltown next weekend, having made his international for Tonga during last year’s Pacific Test.
“Myself, along with a number of other players, have recommitted to Tonga again because we are passionate about our heritage and we also want to help make international rugby league stronger and the best way for us to do that is by making Tonga a competitive team internationally,” Taumalolo said.
“I hope the governing bodies of the game also follow suit by making sure Tonga and other tier two nations have the opportunity to play regular meaningful games against tier one nations.”
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf will today name a 19-strong squad on Thursday to face Samoa and hoped more players followed Taumalolo’s example.
“We all saw the effect of him making the decision for the World Cup. It certainly gave a lot of confidence to other blokes and that they could do the same thing,” he said.