Tui Lolohea confident Pacific players will stand out in NRL this season after historic World Cup campaigns - 'I feel it already'

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NZN

The success of the Pacific Nations at last year's Rugby League World Cup will have a far-reaching impact on this year's NRL, according to Tonga five-eighth Tuimoala Lolohea.

Mate Ma'a Tonga supporters have made this year's World Cup special the five-eighth says.
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Each of the four second-tier Pacific teams made the quarter-finals of the competition, with Tonga and Fiji advancing to the last four.

Lolohea played a starring role in Tonga's run, with his three tries in four matches helping spark a return to Wests Tigers training ahead of schedule, and before Christmas, to learn he has been shifted to fullback.

And it's a feeling Lolohea expects the majority of the 53 frontline NRL players who featured for the island nations heading into this year's season to share.

Mate Ma'a Tonga mingled with fans this afternoon as they prepare for their RLWC semi-final against England.
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"I feel it already," Lolohea said.

"The excitement that I had after World Cup, I was really excited and excited to come back to training.

"Hopefully they all think the same and have a good year this year."

Tonga's run to the semi-final, led by the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita, Michael Jennings and Will Hopoate, was their best World Cup run in the team's history as they went within two points of defeating England.

Fiji's semi-final loss to Australia marked their third consecutive visit to the final four, while the fanfare around Papua New Guinea prompted discussions of more Pacific Tests and even a team entering the NRL competition from the region.

"It was crazy and amazing. Not just for us but the game itself," Lolohea said.

"It's the best campaign I've been a part of by far.

"It's really hard to describe, it's more of a feeling thing.

"A lot more fans got on board with Tongan team. Not just Tongan supporters but there was a lot more support from outside people.

"A really good experience and I would like to do it again."

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