Tonga name squad for New Zealand showdown
TONGA have named an imposing 22-man squad for next weekend's clash with New Zealand with the defection of John Asiata from Samoa a key inclusion for the emerging Pacific power.
Asiata, who has previously played two Tests for Samoa, is expected to make his Tongan debut in the halves alongside former Wests Tigers pivot Tuimoala Lolohea, who is the sole player returning from Super League for the clash.
Roosters backrower Sitili Tupouniua, Broncos utility Kotoni Staggs, Titans prop Moeaki Fotuaika and Manly hooker Manase Fainu, who turned down a possible start with the Kiwis, are the debutants in a star-studded squad which contains a host of Tongan veterans.
Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Manu Ma'u and David Fusitu'a, the five players who turned their back on Australian and New Zealand to link up with the Tongans in 2017, all return, as does rising Sea Eagles prop Addin Fonua-Blake and Brisbane tyro Tevita Pangai Junior.
Veteran outside backs Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou and Warriors flyer Solomone Kata have also been included.
Tonga created rugby league history with their upset of New Zealand in the 2017 World Cup and next Saturday's match at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium is expected to be another classic.
John Asiata (North Queensland Cowboys), Manase Fainu (Manly Sea Eagles), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla Sharks), Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles), Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans), David Fusi'tua (New Zealand Warriors), Siliva Havili (Canberra Raiders), Tuimoala Lolohea (Leeds Rhinos), Will Hopoate (Canterbury Bulldogs), Michael Jennings (Parramatta Eels), Robert Jennings (Wests Tigers), Solomone Kata (New Zealand Warriors), Sione Katoa (Penrith Panthers), Manu Ma'u (Parramatta Eels), Tevita Pangai Junior (Brisbane Broncos), Kotoni Staggs (Brisbane Broncos), Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys), Peni Terepo (Parramatta Eels), Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters), Sitili Tupouniua (Sydney Roosters)