By Brad Walter
Titans forward David Fifita is expected to pull on a Tonga jersey for the first time in next weekend’s World Cup warm-up match against France after arriving in England with the Pacific nation’s squad.
Fifita is one of 21 NRL stars in the 24-man Mate Ma’a Tonga squad, which includes NSW Origin representatives Daniel Tupou and Siosifa Talakai, as well as rookie Panthers halfback Isaiya Katoa and hooker Soni Luke.
The strength of Kristian Woolf’s squad is highlighted by the players either unavailable or overlooked, including injured Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs, Wests Tigers forward Joe Ofahengaue and Bulldogs enforcer Tavita Pangai jnr.
World Cup veterans Andrew Fifita and David Fusitu’a, who were key members in the stunning rise of the Pacific nation at the 2017 World Cup, will also miss the upcoming tournament in England.
Tonga captain Will Hopoate, his St Helens team-mate Konrad Hurrell and Huddersfield playmaker Tui Lolohea are the three Super League players in the squad.
Fifita, Tupou, Talakai, Titans prop Moeaki Fotuaika, Warriors forward Ben Murdoch-Masila and Broncos fullback Tesi Niu are others who didn’t feature in the mid-season Test against the Kiwis.
The squad was announced on the Tonga Rugby League Official social media accounts on Monday.
Tonga, who are ranked No.2 on the IRL World Rankings, open their World Cup campaign against Papua New Guinea at St Helens on October 18 before meeting Wales and Cook Islands in their remaining pool matches.
Star forward Jason Taumalolo will miss the opening two matches as well this weekend’s warm-up clash with France in Halifax after receiving a three-game ban for a tackle in North Queensland’s semi-final defeat by Parramatta.
Mate Ma’a Tonga
Talatau Amone (St George Illawarra Dragons)
David Fifita (Gold Coast Titans)
Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors)
Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans)
Siliva Havili (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
William Hopoate (St Helens Saints)
Konrad Hurrell (St Helens Saints)
Isaiya Katoa (Penrith Panthers)
Sione Katoa (Cronulla Sharks)
Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm)
Keaon Koloamatangi (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Toluta’u Koula (Manly Sea Eagles)
Tui Lolohea (Huddersfield Giants)
Soni Luke (Penrith Panthers)
Ben Murdoch-Masila (Warriors)
Tesi Niu (Brisbane Broncos)
Haumole Olakau’atu (Manly Sea Eagles)
Will Penisini (Parramatta Eels)
Mosese Suli (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Siosifa Talakai (Cronulla Sharks)
Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Siosiua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters)
Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)
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