12 Oct 2017

Defections will motivate Kiwis

11:25 am on 12 October 2017

Kangaroos backrower Matt Gillett reckons New Zealand will be more dangerous than ever at the Rugby League World Cup despite losing high-profile stars to Tonga.

England captain tackled during Four Nations Test against New Zealand

Kiwis in actions against England Photo: Photosport

The Kiwis' Cup plans were turned on their head by North Queensland wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo's last minute defection to the minnows.

Tonga are now considered a World Cup dark horse with their ranks also bolstered by the likes of Cronulla juggernaut Andrew Fifita who backflipped days after being named in the Kangaroos squad.

Matt Gillett in action for the Brisbane Broncos

Matt Gillett in action for the Brisbane Broncos Photo: Photosport

"Tonga will be a danger in the competition, for sure," Gillett said.

But Gillett believed New Zealand should not be dismissed as a Cup threat.

"I don't think they have been weakened, they are still playing for their country," he said.

"Their players will want to do their country proud, they will still want to win.

"I don't think they will be weakened.

"I think they will use it (defections) as motivation."

Jason Taumalolo in action

Jason Taumalolo in action Photo: photosport

Taumalolo's shock move was reportedly in protest over coach David Kidwell's decision to not consider Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor for the World Cup after they were embroiled in a cocaine scandal following May's trans-Tasman Test.

In contrast Fifita claimed he wanted to honour his "father's heritage".

Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith admitted he was shocked by Fifita's call.

But Gillett said he had no problem with it.

"Obviously you want him to play beside you but he is playing for his father and I respect that," he said.

"That's up to the individual to make up their own minds."