Mate Ma'a Tonga coach Kristian Woolf is opening the 2017 Rugby League World Cup with all guns blazing after selecting his team for Sunday’s clash with Scotland in Cairns.
Woolf named NRL stars Will Hopoate, Michael Jennings, Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo all as starters in the first of three pool matches.
Ata Hingano is the only one of Tonga’s three current Vodafone Warriors named with Solomone Kata and David Fusitu’a on an extended bench.
Recently-departed Vodafone Warriors great Manu Vatuvei is on the wing in a backline which also includes former Vodafone Warriors Konrad Hurrell and Tuimoala Lolohea while Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Siliva Havili are in the starting pack. Ukuma Ta’ai hasn't been included.
A total of 11 of the 17 players selected to face the Bravehearts have appeared at Test level for the Kiwis or the Kangaroos - Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings and Andrew Fifita for the Kangaroos and Vatuvei, Lolohea, Taukeiaho, Havili, Sika Manu, Manu Ma'u, Jason Taumalolo and Sam Moa for the Kiwis.
Mate Ma’a Tonga is in arguably the toughest of the World Cup groups with Pool B matches against Toa Samoa and the New Zealand Kiwis to come.
But Woolf understands the importance of this first pool game against the under-rated Scottish, who drew with New Zealand in the Four Nations tournament just last year and defeated Tonga at the 2013 World Cup.
“We know what to expect from Scotland – they have surprised us before,” said Woolf.
“We are pleased with the side we have been able to select, but that does not guarantee results.
“The team has had a good start to the camp in Cairns but we need to get our preparation right for Sunday’s game. These will be testing conditions in the heat of North Queensland.”
After the match in Cairns, the Tongans will move base to Hamilton in New Zealand, where they will face Samoa (November 4) and the Kiwis (November 11).
RLWC2017 | MATE MA’A TONGA v SCOTLAND BRAVEHEARTS
4.15pm, Sunday, October 29
Barlow Park, Cairns
1 WILL HOPOATE
2 DANIEL TUPOU
3 MICHAEL JENNINGS
4 KONRAD HURRELL
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
7 ATA HINGANO
8 ANDREW FIFITA
9 SILIVA HAVILLI
10 SIO SIUA TAUKIEAHO
11 MANU MA'U
12 SIKA MANU (c)
13 JASON TAUMALOLO
14 SIONE KATOA
15 SAM MOA
16 PENI TEREPO
17 BEN MURDOCH-MASILA
18 JOE OFAHENGAUE
19 SOLOMONE KATA
20 DAVID FUSITU’A
21 SAMISONI LANGI
COACH | KRISTIAN WOOLF
Not selected: Mahe Fonua, Tevita Pangai junior, Ukuma Ta’ai