Tonga ready to compete with Kangaroos, says David Fusitu’a

David Fusitu'a is determined to get back into the Tonga side after missing last month's win over Samoa. Picture: RENEE MCKAY/GETTY IMAGES

AUCKLAND, 16 JULY 2108 (STUFF NZ) – Plans are afoot to give Pacific Island nations more tests against tier one countries in the coming years but Tonga may not have to wait that long if an end-of-season clash against the Kangaroos gets the green light.

A match-up between the world champions and the darlings of last year’s World Cup has been muted for some time. Australia coach Mal Meninga is a fan of the idea and negotiations between the respective parties are said to be ongoing.

With Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and the rest of their World Cup squad sticking with Mate Ma’a Tonga, the Kristian Woolf-coached side showed they are here to stay with a dominant victory over Samoa last month.

The Tongans produced a first-half blitz that several experts believed would have given the Kangaroos a run for their money.
Warriors winger David Fusitu’a missed the game with an ankle injury but he is confident that’s exactly what they would do if given the chance.

“I feel we can match it with whoever is put in front of us and I trust that all the boys feel the same way,” Fusitu’a told Stuff. “That’s the great thing about our team, there’s a lot of confidence and we’ll back ourselves against anyone.

“They’re the pinnacle of rugby league. To give us a chance to strap up against them would be massive.

“I think it would be a game people would come out to watch.”

If international rugby league is to grow, tier two nations must be given more meaningful tests and progress appeared to be made in that area last week.

The NRL’s proposed international calendar included an Oceania Cup next year between the Kiwis, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji as well as two separate Four Nations tournaments in 2020 along with Australia, England, France, and Papua New Guinea.

The Rugby League International Federation too expressed its support for a potential Pacific championship, even if the NRL’s decision to release its proposal ahead of a RLIF meeting in Singapore later this month did not go down well.

Fusitu’a, who went on to star for Tonga at the World Cup following his late defection from the Kiwis, is keen to wear the red jersey as much as possible.

After missing the win over Samoa he is desperate to get back into the team, particularly if it means getting a crack at the Kangaroos.

“It was a bit tough. I was really looking forward to that game,” the Warriors flyer said. “Even the camp leading up to the game, it’s pretty refreshing going away and there’s a lot of laughter.

“But at the same time, I’m really happy for them. They played some great footy and I’ll be doing my best to get back into that side.”

Before he can worry about Australia, Fusitu’a’s main priority is helping the Warriors break their finals drought and they face a significant challenge in Brisbane on Sunday.

Fusitu’a was the NRL’s leading try-scorer heading into the weekend. But with fellow winger Ken Maumalo out with a knee injury, it’s his carries out of the backfield that may be equally important against a physical Broncos outfit.

Fusitu’a and Maumalo provide a one-two punch that plays a key role in getting the Warriors on the front foot.

Gerard Beale has been named to start on the left wing, bringing a different set of skills to the power game of Maumalo.

And Fusitu’a says it will take a collective effort from the back five to take the pressure off the big men inside them.

“If we match their energy or even go over the top of them it will go a long way to winning the game,” he said.

“They’re really physical out there and it’s going to take a lot of energy out of the forwards. It will be crucial for us outside backs in general to really help them out.”

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