Kiwis name '100 per cent' committed team for World Cup after Taumalolo snubs them for Tonga

The Kiwi team to take part in this year's Rugby League World Cup has been named, amid the controversial late withdrawal of North Queensland star Jason Taumalolo who has rejected the Kiwis in favour of his native Tonga.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Kiwis coach David Kidwell used the release of the squad in front of media to address the issue and speak about the new culture he wants to promote within the team.

"It's Jason's decision and we respect that decision, but we have to focus on the guys who are going to wear the jersey, I haven't spoken to Jason yet.

"That's the most disappointing thing, a conversation between myself and him would have been the right thing to do. As far as we were concerned Jason was part of our team and to find out two days before naming the team is disappointing but that's his decision," Kidwell said.

Looking to put the issue aside and focusing on the squad they named was the main theme of the squad naming.

Taumalolo has rejected the Kiwis and is set to play for Tonga at this year's Rugby League World Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

"We have made some strong decisions and we will have 100 per cent commitment from the players we have selected," the coach said emphatically.

Selector Tawera Nikau also fronted media and shut them down when they continued to press about Taumalolo's decision.

"If you want to find out about Jason, maybe you should ask Jason and the Tongan team, our focus is on the 24 men we have in this team," Nikau said.

The full Kiwis squad named to take part in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup is as follows:

Kenneath Bromwich, Addin Fonua-Blake, Peta Hiku, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu, Simon Mannering, Te Maire Martin, Jason Nightingale, Kodi Nikorima, Russell Packer, Jordan Rapana, Brad Takairangi, Joseph Tapine, Martin Taupau, Elijah Taylor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare

The Kiwis coach is still upbeat about his side's chances of taking out the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Source: 1 NEWS


Another one! Sharks powerhouse Andrew Fifita withdraws from OZ World Cup side to play for Tonga

Cronulla Sharks star and Kangaroos regular Andrew Fifita has reportedly opted to withdraw from the Kangaroos' Rugby League World Cup squad to make himself available to play for Tonga instead.

Fifita, who has earned seven caps for Australia since debuting in 2013, was named by coach Mal Meninga to play for the Kangaroos at this year's tournament on Tuesday.

However, the 28-year-old has called Meninga to inform him he wished to make himself available for the Pacific Island team instead, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Penrith forward Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been called into the Kangaroos squad.

The news follows Cowboys superstar Jason Taumalolo's announcement yesterday to snub the Kiwis squad in favour of playing for Tonga.

Andrew Fifita of NSW attacks during game 1 of the State of Origin rugby league, Queensland Reds v New South Wales, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia. 31 May 2017. Copyright Image: Tertius Pickard /
Andrew Fifita of NSW attacks during Game 1 of the State of Origin rugby league against Queensland. Source: Photosport



'Disrespectful to the jersey' - Benji Marshall fired up over Jason Taumalolo's Kiwi World Cup snub

Veteran Kiwi rugby league player Benji Marshall has voiced his opinion on star Jason Taumalolo's decision to play for Tonga instead of New Zealand at this year's Rugby League World Cup, calling the actions "disrespectful to the jersey".

Marshall told Newstalk ZB's Veitchy on Sport show he is annoyed with the second rower's decision to switch teams so close to the competition.

"I just don't know what part of society has changed that you all of a sudden decide three weeks out from the World Cup you are not playing.

"It's just a bit disrespectful to the jersey when you've been part of the team for a certain amount of time. If you really think that, the decision could have been made seven or eight weeks ago.

"It is an honour to wear the jersey. It doesn't matter what the excuses are, you shouldn't be allowed to to-and-fro and choose, to say I don't want to play this year but I'll play next year."

Taumalolo has rejected the Kiwis and is set to play for Tonga at this year's Rugby League World Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

Marshall said the rule allowing Taumalolo to make the decision in the first place was "bizarre".

"Jason feels like he has the right. If you were in the All Blacks environment you wouldn't dare - I don't know why we feel like we can make these decisions."

Taumalolo announced yesterday he had decided to play for Tonga for the development of the Pacific Island nation and to help their campaign ambitions.

"I really enjoyed my time within the Tongan World Cup Squad last time and have had a long time association with Tongan Coach Kristian Woolf," said Taumalolo.

"I just feel it's time to give back and hopefully I can assist and inspire young Tongan players to chase their NRL goals.

"I see with the new international rule change an opportunity to represent both Tonga and NZ throughout my career, 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 would like to help them with their campaign."

Tonga will take on the Kiwis on November 11 at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 20:  Jason Taumalolo of Tonga is tackled during the International Test Match between Tonga and Samoa at Centrebet Stadium on April 20, 2013 in Penrith, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Jason Taumalolo playing for Tonga against Samoa Source: Getty