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Tonga not looking past World Cup opener Featured

Tonga captain Sika Manu and head coach Kristian Woolf Tonga captain Sika Manu and head coach Kristian Woolf

24 October, 2017. The Tonga rugby league team insist they're not looking beyond this weekend's World Cup opener against Scotland in Cairns.

Mate Ma'a Tonga have been the talk of the last few weeks, since Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita opted to switch allegiance from New Zealand and Australia at the 11th hour, and were quickly joined by the likes of Manu Ma'u, Sio Siua Taukieaho and David Fusitu'a.

Head coach Kristian Woolf said their preparations have been helped by the fact the players all know each other, have played together previously and know his expectations of them.

Despite increased expectations, Woolf said they couldn't afford to look beyond Sunday's opening match against a Scottish side that beat them at the same stage four years ago.

"In 2013 we had a similar sort of path where we had some high-profile guys, and a little bit of buzz around the team that we selected," he said.

"We went into that Scotland game a little bit under-prepared and got beaten by two points and Scotland went through and played in the quarter finals and we didn't.

"So it's really important that while there's that little bit of buzz around and while that certainly increases the expectation around the team, and everyone's talking about games against Samoa and New Zealand, we can't lose sight on the most important game and that's Scotland"

Key players for the Kingdom, including Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita were restricted to just half an hour during Friday night's 16-6 victory against Italy in Northern Queensland but Kristian Woolf said they are all ready to go this weekend.

"That was just about managing those guys a little bit. They both played 30 minutes those two guys, as did Sio Siua Taukieaho, Manu Ma'u, Michael Jennings - guys like that who had all played finals footy in the NRL," he said.

"We didn't want those guys out there again getting flogged in a trial. It was a chance for them to have a run with the team and get some contact again and get a little bit of match fitness but, at the same time, it's important they're getting that little bit of a break too.

"They'll all be available and ready this Sunday - I think the only guy that may not be available at this stage is Ukuma Ta'ai, who just had a little bit of a calf strain early in the camp so he's certainly going to be available by the next game but he will probably be in doubt for this week."

-RNZI

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