5 Oct 2017

Marshall unimpressed by Taumalolo's defection from Kiwis

12:18 pm on 5 October 2017

The former Kiwis international Benji Marshall has labelled Jason Taumalolo disrespectful following the National Rugby League star defection to Tonga for the World Cup.

But Tonga coach Kristian Woolf believes the "brave" Taumalolo has laid a platform for players putting their allegiances ahead of money.

Taumalolo, who was instrumental in taking an understrength North Queensland side to the NRL grand final, has dealt New Zealand's World Cup hopes a massive blow with confirmation he will play for Tonga rather the side he's played his past 10 Tests for.

Marshall, a veteran of 27 Tests for New Zealand, was scathing of Taumalolo.

Benji Marshall is out for six weeks.

Benji Marhsall Photo: Supplied: Brisbane Broncos

"It's just a bit disrespectful to the jersey when you've been part of the team for a certain amount of time," Marshall told Radio Sport.

"If you really think that, the decision could have been made seven or eight weeks ago."

Taumalolo will sacrifice tens of thousands of dollars for his decision.

While that may be a drop in the ocean for someone who's renumerated accordingly as one of the world's best forwards, Woolf said choosing Tonga would have been difficult.

"He's obviously sacrificing a lot," Australian coach Woolf told the NRL website.

"You're not comparing apples with apples when you're talking about the benefits of playing for a tier-one nation compared to a tier-two nation.

"One group of nations are looked after a hell of a lot better than the other."

Kiwi players can earn $50,000 for winning the World Cup, compared to the $3000 playing for a Tongan side Woolf is hoping will reach the quarter-finals.

In a statement on Wednesday, 2016 Dally M Medal winner Taumalolo justified his decision by declaring his wish to develop rugby league in the Polynesian nation.

The North Queensland Cowboys star hoped to continue playing for both countries in the future.

Woolf said Taumalolo's decision would influence others amid reports up to seven other players could snub New Zealand to represent other countries at the World Cup.

"That's why I think it is such a brave step, him being the first to really do that and lay a platform; to say that it is OK to sacrifice other things and play for a team that in your heart you know you want to play for," Woolf said.

"He's the best forward in the game at the moment so for him to make the jump while he is in such a position in his career says a lot about his character."