Sika Manu cleared to lead Tonga against Australia, Agnatius Paasi defects to New Zealand

Mate Ma'a Tonga captain Sika Manu. Picture: SKY SPORTS

SYDNEY, 09 OCTOBER 2018 (AAP) – skipper Sika Manu has been cleared of a knee injury and will lead the Mate Ma’a Tonga in their historic rugby league test against Australia in Auckland.

Coach Kristian Woolf is breathing a sigh of relief, after confirming his inspirational skipper in his trimmed 19-strong squad for the October 20 clash – their first test against world champions Australia.

Just weeks ago, Woolf was gutted by reports claiming Manu had suffered a season-ending knee injury, playing for Super League side Hull FC.

Manu leads a strong Tonga squad, boasting NRL stars Andrew Fifita, Jason Taumalolo and Tevita Pangai.

“To be able to have Sika Manu in as a leader for this squad is a big plus,” said Woolf. “This group has shown a commitment to their country of heritage and we are pleased with the calibre of the squad we have been able to name.

“We realise there is a huge challenge ahead of us in playing the current World Cup holders, so we are extending every resource we can to give this challenge our absolute best effort.”

Only one member of the 19-strong squad did not take part in Tonga’s stunning run to last year’s World Cup semi-finals – Manly’s Addin Fonua-Blake.

Woolf also named two development players – Robert Jennings of South Sydney and the Warriors’ Leivaha Pulu.

Tonga will travel to New Zealand next week for a pre-match camp in Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Agnatius Paasi has changed his mind on playing for Tonga after being offered the chance to join up with the New Zealand squad ahead of their clash with Australia.

The New Zealand Warriors prop was due to line up for the Mate Ma’a against the Kangaroos on October 20, but could face the same opponents a week earlier after being called up by the Kiwis.

Jason Taumalolo was among the players who defected from New Zealand to represent Tonga at the World Cup last year, but Paasi has now made the move the other way.

The 26-year-old, who was born in Tonga but grew up in New Zealand before moving to Australia at the age of 17, was named in an extended squad for the Test at Mt Smart Stadium.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said: “He called and told me he’d had a call from the Kiwis and had changed his mind. If he is more comfortable there then he should play for them.”

Kiwis coach Michael Maguire is without Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona (ankle) and Sydney Roosters forward Zane Tetevano (bicep) after they picked up injuries in Sunday’s NRL Grand Final.

The¬† Tongan squad:¬†Andrew Fifita, Addin Fonua-Blake, David Fusitu’a, Siliva Havilli, Ata Hingano, Will Hopoate, Konileti Hurrell, Michael Jennings, Solomone Kata, Sione Katoa, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sika Manu, Ben Murdoch-Masilla, Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai Jnr, Jason Taumalolo, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Peni Terepo, Daniel Tupou.

Development players: Robert Jennings, Leivaha Pulu.

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