10 Oct 19: Powerhouse Tonga Invitational XIII Squad confirmed for GB Lions Tour and Oceana Cup

Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita, David Fusitua, William Hopoate and Daniel Tupou headline a full-strength Tonga Invitational XIII squad that will contest the forthcoming Oceania Cup and take on the touring Great Britain Rugby League Lions in Hamilton on October 26.

Coached by Kristian Woolf, the Tonga Invitational XIII named today contains 17 players who featured at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

“I’m excited to be getting back into camp with my teammates now we have certainty that we will be playing these two Test matches,” Taumalolo said.

“The best possible team will be taking the field and we know our match against Great Britain in Hamilton will be incredibly competitive. Then we get the chance to have another go at Australia in Auckland during the Triple Header on November 2.

“We are pumped and focussed on these two major games and have plenty of motivation to play our best. So I just want to say to our Tongan fans - thank you for sticking by us. We love you and can’t wait to put on our jersey and do you proud.

“You are truly the best fans in the world, and we are very grateful for your patience. We can’t wait to witness the ‘sea of red’ back again in Hamilton, and let’s show the world we can fill up Eden Park.”

Tonga Invitational XIII coach Kristian Woolf said he was delighted to have assembled a squad capable of challenging the strongest rugby league nations on the planet.

“This is a great opportunity for us to go up against two of the best teams in the world,” Woolf said.

“Australia are the top-ranked team on the planet, and we also get to face the Great Britain League Lions, an outfit that has not been together since 2007.
“But not only will these Tests be historic, they will be about uniting a country – all our team members want to do is make the wonderful people of Tonga proud.

“And to do that we are looking forward to the challenge of playing the best two teams in world rugby league, and showing what we are capable of.”

Jeremy Edwards, spokesperson for GB Oceania – the joint venture delivering the GB League Lions Tour and Oceania Cup – said: “It’s been an incredibly challenging few months for international rugby league, however Tonga is a critical part of the game and we are pleased we’ve been able to assemble a stellar Tonga Invitational XIII side of the highest order.

“Our focus has been on maintaining the quality of international rugby league and responding to what the fans want and expect, which is to see the best players in the world.

“The undoubted strength of Tonga Invitational XIII will make for an exciting Triple Header when they play Australia at Eden Park, and a hugely competitive contest in Hamilton when they take on the Great Britain Rugby League Lions.”

The Oceania Cup continues with a blockbuster Trans-Tasman showdown between the Kiwis and Kangaroos at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium on Friday, Oct 25. The Tonga Invitational XIII are then in action against the GB League Lions in Hamilton the following day.

A week later, Auckland hosts the biggest day in international rugby league history, with Fiji taking on Samoa, Australia’s Kangaroos facing the Tonga Invitational XIII and the Kiwis clashing with the GB League Lions in a massive triple-header.

Taumalolo said he and his team-mates were delighted to be able to concentrate on preparing for action on the field.

“The players are happy and relieved that this matter has been resolved and we can focus on what we need to do - play the best footy we can for our families and our people,” Taumalolo said.

TONGA INVITATIONAL XIII squad to contest the GB League Lions Tour and Oceania Cup.

1 John Asiata
2 Andrew Fifita
3 Addin Fonua-Blake
4 David Fusitu'a
5 Siliva Havili
6 Ata Hingano
7 William Hopoate
8 Konrad Hurrell
9 Michael Jennings
10 Sione Katoa
11 Tuimoala Lolohea
12 Manu Ma'u
13 Ben Murdoch-Masila
14 Joe Ofahengaue
15 Tevita Pangai Jr
16 Kotoni Staggs
17 Tevita Junior Tatola
18 Sio Siua Taukeiaho
19 Jason Taumalolo
20 Daniel Tupou
21 Sitili  Tupouniua
Coach: Kristian Woolf

“It’s going to be a complete honour to get them (the fans) out there. We’ve got a team we’re versing who knocked us out of the World Cup and you’re talking about a Lions team that every 10 years they come out.

“To be given the opportunity to come out and play against them is a massive honour and we’re versing the current world champions again.
“All I keep hearing is good news from the Australian camp that it was the best atmosphere they’ve ever played in front of and it’s the same with England. To our fans, we need them to rock up in force and bring your flags out and just we love hearing the songs and everything else.

“We’ll be ready. I know we’ll be ready, especially with all the controversy that’s happened over the past year in our team.

“We haven’t fought this hard to keep our team together to just go out there and lose a game. We’re going to be ready. We’re going into camp early so it will be a big few weeks for us.”

“Everything’s all sorted now and we can now focus on the next two tests.

“All us players are all coming back to play for the test games– myself Andrew Fifita, Jase … pretty much the whole team that all played against the kiwis in the last game – we’re all back on board now preparing ourselves mentally and physically for those games.

“We’re not playing for the money. It is us giving back to those people in Tonga and also our families. They’ve done a lot for us players and also for myself so the best I could do was to give back for them. So it means a lot to me putting on that red and white jersey on and seeing all those people waving the red flags singing hymns singing songs, the national anthem, it gives me goose bumps and it gives me the reason to play.”

Sat 26 Oct – GBRL LIONS V TONGA, FMG Stadium Waikato 
TICKETS FROM $20, kids from $10 (plus fees)
Great Britain Rugby League Lions vs Tonga

Sat 2 Nov – TRIPLE HEADER - Eden Park, Auckland
TICKETS FROM $25, kids from $10 (plus fees)
Samoa v Fiji (Oceania Cup – Pool B)
Great Britain Rugby League Lions v New Zealand
Tonga v Australia (Oceania Cup – Pool A)

Sat 9 Nov – DOUBLE HEADER – Orangetheory stadium, Christchurch
TICKETS FROM $20, kids from $10 (plus fees)
Fiji vs Papua New Guinea  (Oceania Cup – Pool B)
Great Britain Rugby League Lions v New Zealand
Then the GBRL Lions head to Papua New Guinea for their last game on tour

Tickets at www.ticketek.co.nz/league2019