16 Sep 2015

Sport: Tonga confident of strong team for Rugby League World Cup qualifier

11:11 am on 16 September 2015

Tonga rugby league coach Kristian Woolf confident of having a strong line-up for next month's World Cup qualifier against Cook Islands, despite a number of high-profile defections.

Only four Pacific teams will contest the 2017 tournament, meaning the Mate Ma'a and Kukis face a winner-takes-all clash at Sydney's Campbelltown Stadium.

St George Illawarra backrower Tyson Frizell was named in an extended 58-man squad last week but has since reaffirmed his commitment to Wales.

The Tongan Rugby League team

The Tongan Rugby League team Photo: Supplied

Meanwhile Solomone Kata, Manu Ma'u and Tui Lolohea have been named in the New Zealand train-on squad, having all played for Tonga in May's Pacific Cup test against Samoa.

Kristian Woolf says that's just something they have to deal with.

"Some of our better players have already been named in their train-on squad for that particular team as well. We will just have to wait and see and the other factor to always look out for is obviously injuries and who's released by NRL clubs. We've named a train-on squad and it's a strong train-on squad and if we can get that sort of side together I think we'll go really well. We make it extensive obviously just to make sure that if there is injuries or there is call-ups to the New Zealand side and that sort of thing we've got players that are still training in the mix and know they need to get themselves fit and healthy".

Cook Islands play Niue in three weeks time but Kristian Woolf says Tonga won't have any warm-up matches.