Taumalolo wants Tonga to be playing against tier-one nation
21 June, 2018, 1:21 pm
SYDNEY,21 JUNE 2018 (AAP) – Tonga’s Jason Taumalolo has called for a historic Test with Australia to receive the green light, promising to shake up the world’s rugby league establishment.
The Mate Ma’a won the hearts and minds of the rugby league world with a giant-killing performance at last year’s World Cup in which they fell agonisingly short of a dream finals appearance.
Had it not been for an Elliott Whitehead strip on Andrew Fifita in the dying seconds, Tonga would have won through to the final against Australia after earlier shocking New Zealand.
Tonga will take on traditional rivals Samoa on Saturday in the Pacific Test at Sydney’s Campbelltown Stadium, however Taumalolo says he wants regular matches against tier-one nations.
An end-of-year Test against the world champion Kangaroos, which would pit Fifita against his former national side, has been proposed but is yet to be signed off on.
Taumalolo’s decision to shun New Zealand during last year’s World Cup had a cascading effect with many fellow stars following suit.
Tonga will field a NRL-quality side against Samoa including Taumalolo, Fifita, Michael Jennings, Will Hopoate, Manu Ma’u and Sio Siua Taukieaho.
With Tonga sitting fourth in the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) rankings, Taumalolo said it was only a matter of time before they were recognised as a tier-one country.
The Dally M winner said he wanted the chance to play against the world’s best nations more often, including Australia.
“I think how we know is when we get to test ourselves against those top-tier nations,” Taumalolo told AAP.
“The only way to prove we’re up there with those top-tier nations is if we’re playing them. Whether or not that will happen, I have no idea. Hopefully, we get the opportunity some time soon.”
While stopping short of saying they would beat the likes of Australia, he promised the Mate Ma’a could give the Kangaroos an almighty shake.
“Obviously, I’m not going to say we’re a chance of beating any team but, with the team we have, the boys we have in our squad, we’re definitely competitive,” Taumalolo said.
“The amount of talent we have, compared to the top-tier nation teams, it’s even — we’re close. I definitely think it would be a great game.
“Whether we’d be playing England, New Zealand or Australia, I’m sure we’d put up a great game.”
Taumalolo kept his cards close to his chest coming up to the representative round and did not publicly announce until last week that he would again turn out for Tonga at the expense of New Zealand.
However, when asked when he knew he was going to commit to Tonga, Taumalolo said: “After the last game of the World Cup. I told the boys I’d commit to Tonga if everyone else did.”