Tongans call for more games
28 November, 2017, 12:00 am
TONGAN star Jason Taumalolo and coach Kristian Woolf call for annual ‘grudge’ match against Kiwis
The former New Zealand international wants more Tests against his former side — echoing coach Kristian Woolf’s call for the game’s administrators to establish an annual “grudge” match in New Zealand.
Tonga’s world cup party came to a controversial end on Saturday in their 20-18 semi-final loss to England at Mt Smart Stadium that saw forward Andrew Fifita denied a match-winning try in the final seconds.
Taumalolo is unsure whether he will stick with the Pacific Island side in the future, but believes Tonga’s stunning run into the final four and the overwhelming fan support they received throughout New Zealand proved they deserve to play more Tests against top tier nations.
It remains to be seen how the game’s movers and shakers plan to build on the success of Tonga’s campaign, but the 24-year-old North Queensland forward says it’s a no-brainer.
“With the amount of support we had here in New Zealand, I really think Tonga has earned the right to play more Tests,” said Taumalolo.
“Obviously it’d be great to come back here and play in Auckland.
“The majority of the Pacific Islanders are here in Auckland, and even if we get the Pacific Test here, it would not only be a great game, but a great atmosphere.”
Woolf was thrilled with Tonga’s progression throughout the world cup and called on the game’s governing bodies to provide more opportunities for second tier nations.
Tonga’s late comeback against England may have fallen short, but Woolf reflected on their historic win over the Kiwis in Hamilton three weeks ago, saying it was obvious the two teams should play each other in an annual fixture.
The late defections of Taumalolo and three other former Kiwis — David Fusitu’a, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Manu Ma’u — to Tonga generated tremendous interest in the tournament and a new international rivalry was born.
“The way forward is there needs to be some thought put into it by the International Rugby League (Federation) and the NRL as to how we keep this momentum going,” said Woolf.
“We certainly need to look at ways that this team can play other tier one nations.
“You go back to the New Zealand game and I’d certainly love to see that as an annual Test that happens in New Zealand.
“Tonga and Samoa is a massive clash and something you want to try and see annually and you could really build that as well as a Tonga-New Zealand game.
“It’s a grudge match now on the back of this tournament and I’ve got no doubt that those guys, New Zealand, would love to play us again to try and get one back over the top of us.”
Woolf wants to remain in his post, while Fifita – who withdrew from the Australian team to join Tonga – said the group of defectors would stick with the Pacific island side.
“I’m here now — I think we all. Wearing a red jersey, we can’t wait until the Pacific series next year. It just took a few of us to rock the world cup. When I say rock the world, we have rocked this world cup,” Fifita said.