Tonga’s chances of winning their first Rugby League World Cup has received a significant boost with star forward, Jason Taumalolo, committing to representing the country later this year.
Taumalolo told Fox Sports on Tuesday that he is still committed to playing at the tournament and playing a role in leading for Pacific nation despite news of Australia and New Zealand withdrawing from the tournament.
“(The decision) is obviously a tough one given the circumstances around it and the situation that different countries have been put in,” Taumalolo said on Tuesday.
“I’m all for flying to play in the World Cup.
“It’s obviously disappointing to have Australia and New Zealand pull out, but two countries pulling out doesn’t hamper what the game is all about.
“It’s about international footy and getting other countries and nations ready to play each other.
“I can’t change anything but just got to roll with it I guess.”
After defeating New Zealand at the 2017 World Cup, Tonga has recorded wins over Great Britain and Australia and will come into the tournament as one of the favourites, together with hosts England. The withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand however may mean that some of the other nations taking part will have access to increased talent, meaning a new name could be on the Paul Barrière Trophy at the end of the year.
“The end of the year tournament will be a great example of guys who actually do want to represent their country,” Taumalolo said.
“It will make for a pretty interesting international features, if you get different players returning back to play for their heritage.
“We could see something special and a couple of upsets too.”