Why Taumalolo snubbed Kiwis for Tonga

Rugby league powerhouse Jason Taumalolo has officially turned his back on New Zealand to play for Tonga in this year's World Cup campaign, sending shockwaves through a beleaguered Kiwis camp.

 

Widely considered the best forward in the world, the 24-year-old Taumalolo was born in Auckland with Tongan ancestry and has thrice played for Mate Ma'a.

Yet, in a move that all but negates his shot at World Cup glory this year, Taumalolo has decided to represent Tonga over New Zealand.

In a written statement, the 2016 Dally M Medal winner justified his decision by declaring his wish to develop rugby league in the Polynesian country.

He hoped to continue playing for both countries in the future.

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Taumalolo representing Tonga earlier in his career. Pic: Twitter

Yet Taumalolo's motives may not be so straightforward, with News Corp reporting that the lock's decision to play for Tonga is directly related to the ousting of ex-Kiwis teammates Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor.

The pair - who would both be certainties for the Kiwis' starting side - were involved in a drugs scandal after May's 30-12 Anzac Day Test loss, and were subsequently barred from Cup selection by boss David Kidwell.

"I see, with the new international rule change, an opportunity to represent both Tonga and New Zealand throughout my career," Taumalolo said.

"I have and will always be proud to wear the Kiwis jersey.

"I just feel the World Cup provides developing nations like Tonga an opportunity to play on the big stage, and I'd like to help them."

The Kiwis have been rocked. Pic: Getty

The loss of Taumalolo is a bitter blow to Kidwell, who is already devoid of Bromwich and Proctor and appears likely to lose Tohu Harris.

The Townsville-based wrecking ball was in vintage NRL form in 2017, making more than 5000 running metres as his club earned a grand final berth.

Premiership-winning Melbourne utility Harris, meanwhile, has reportedly been ruled out of the tournament with niggling foot and shoulder injuries.

A Kiwis spokesman declined to discuss either player on Wednesday, saying Kidwell would announce his 24-man squad on Thursday as scheduled.

Between Taumalolo, Harris, Bromwich, Proctor and the reportedly dumped Issac Luke, the Kiwis' World Cup scrum has lost more than 100 Test caps worth of experience.

Five-eighth Kieran Foran will also sit out the tournament with injury.

Tonga's Rugby League World Cup 2017 Squad

Andrew Fifita
Mahe Fonua
David Fusitu’a
Siliva Havilli
Ata Hingano
Will Hopoate
Konrad Hurrell
Michael Jennings
Solomone Kata
Sione Katoa
Samisoni Langi
Tuimoala Lolohea
Sika Manu
Manu Ma'u
Sam Moa
Ben Murdoch Masila
Joe Ofahengaue
Tevita Pangai jnr
Ukuma Ta'ai
Sio Siua Taukieaho
Jason Taumalolo
Peni Terepo
Daniel Tupou
Manu Vatuvei

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