Gold Coast Titans superstar David Fifita has been chosen in a Tongan extended World Cup squad that also includes NSW Origin players Kotoni Staggs and Daniel Tupou, despite their injury concerns.
Mate Ma’a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf and his management team have selected the 38-strong list, which will be shaved to 24 at the end of the month.
While there were nothing like the bombshells that fell in 2017 when key players led by Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita turned their backs on Australia and New Zealand to represent the island nation, the selection of Fifita will be a talking point because he is also in Australia’s train-on squad.
RLWC2021 contacted Woolf through is club St Helens to confirm it was 22-year-old centre David Fifita, not the 33-year-old Wakefield prop of the same name.
Fifita is also one of 15 players named by the green-and-golds so far from clubs that have dropped out of the NRL premiership race, to train in preparation for representing the World Cup holders.
Under International Rugby League rules, if Fifita misses final selection for Australia, he can represent his tier two nation of election, which is clearly Tonga.
WOOLF’S QUIET CONFIDENCE
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) September 11, 2022
Brisbane centre Staggs, meanwhile, reportedly needs a shoulder reconstruction while winger Tupou’s recovery time for a back injury was put at six weeks from the beginning of September.
There are 13 survivors from the 2017 Mate Ma’a campaign that changed the face of international rugby league.
Young Dolphins signing Isaiya Katoa – formerly of Penrith – also gets recognition. 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.
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)