Mate Ma’a Tonga have announced their 38-man extended squad for the Rugby League World Cup in England in October, and it’s jam-packed with headline names and some of the best talent in the NRL and Super League.
The squad will be cut to 24 by the beginning of the tournament, with any players not currently in England flying to London in early October to prepare for both the tournament and a warm-up match against France on October 8. Any players who make the NRL Grand Final will join the squad a week later.
The Tongan team are favourites to finish first in their group, which also contains Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands and Wales. Their first game will be against the Kumuls in St Helens on October 18.
The full extended squad is as follows:
Talatau Amone, Andrew Fifita, David Fifita, Addin Fonua-Blake, Moeaki Fotuaika, David Fusitu'a, Siliva Havili, Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Eliesa Katoa, Isaiya Katoa, Sione Katoa, Felise Kaufusi, Oregon Kaufusi, Keaon Koloamatangi, Tolutau Koula, Tuimoala Lolohea, Soni Luke, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Tesi Niu, Joe Ofahengaue, Haumole Olakau'atu, Taniela Otukolo, Agnatius Paasi, Tevita Pangai Junior, Taniela Paseka, Will Penisini, Kotoni Staggs, Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Moses Suli, Siosifa Talakai, Tevita Tatola, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Jason Taumalolo, Starford To'a, Christian Tuipulotu, Daniel Tupou, Stefano Utoikamanu.
Just looking at that list, I’m struck by the dearth of halves and full-backs, in what is otherwise a world-class squad.
If Tonga is reduced to selecting 18 year old Isaiah Katoa as number 6, before he has made his NRL debut, then don’t expect Mate Ma’a to make much of an impression.
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