New South Wales Origin duo Kotoni Staggs and Daniel Tupou have been named in the extended Mata Ma’a Tonga squad ahead of the NRL’s rep round.
However, The Sydney Morning Herald reports the pair have not decided yet whether they will represent the Blues or Tonga next weekend.
Meanwhile, Shaun Johnson has missed out on the New Zealand side with Dylan Brown named and expected to debut in the halves with Jahrome Hughes.
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Under the international eligibility rules, players can play for NSW and Tonga — a tier two nation. However Tonga’s Test with New Zealand on June 25 is the night before Origin II in Perth.
Staggs, who played in the centres for the Blues in Origin I, has been named at five-eighth for Tonga and Tupou, a Blues winger, has been named on the wing.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf told the Herald that he’s “happy for them to have a foot in both camps” after speaking with NSW coach Brad Fittler but will need a definite answer by Sunday.
“I spoke to Freddy, and the last thing either of us wanted was for them to be left out of one squad and then not named in the other,” Woolf told the Herald.
“Nobody wants to see these two watching footy next weekend.
“You want to see the best players playing. I’m happy for them to have a foot in both camps. The rules allow them to do so.
“We’ll meet again on Friday, and will obviously need an answer either way by Sunday.
“These two guys deserve their options. I also believe Origin shouldn’t interfere with their ability to play international football, and for a country like Tonga that they have such a strong affiliation with.”
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Tupou and Staggs will earn $15,000 if they choose to represent the Blues for Origin II — and are selected again — or will earn $2,000 for playing in Tonga’s Test.
Woolf is hopeful they pick NSW but understands if they don’t.
“We know we can’t compete financially, but the pride in representing Tonga — and the pride they have when they come together — it’s a big reason why these boys want to play for Tonga,” he said.
“We just want them to make a decision that’s right for them and their families. If that’s Tonga, then great, if it’s NSW, we understand the reasons why as well.
“Toops has played with us since 2013 and played in nearly every Test since then. Nobody would ever question his loyalty to us.
“His inclusion would also be a massive boost for some of the younger guys in our group who could find themselves in a similar position moving forward.”
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Woolf is unable to attend the Test at Mt Smart Stadium, New Zealand given he’s in the UK coaching St Helens. Wayne Bennett and Dean Young will steer the ship.
Tonga have named an exciting 25-man squad that includes veterans Andrew Fifita Jason Taumalolo and Siosiua Taukeiaho as well as youngsters Manly’s Tolu Koula and Panthers SG Ball player Isaiya Katoa.
Meanwhile, Panthers duo Scott Sorensen and Moses Leota as well as Marata Niukore are among the potential debutants for New Zealand.
1. Tolotau Koula (Sea Eagles) 2. Daniel Tupou (Roosters) 3. Siosifa Talakai (Sharks) 4. Mosese Suli (Dragons) 5. Sione Katoa (Sharks) 6. Kotoni Staggs (Broncos) 7. Talatau Amone (Dragons) 8. Siosiua Taukieaho (Roosters) 9. Siliva Havili (Rabbitohs) 10. Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors) 11. Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters) 12. Keaon Koloamatangi (Rabbitohs) 13. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) 14. Soni Luke (Panthers) 15. Haumole Olakau’atu (Sea Eagles) 16. Tevita Pangai Junior (Bulldogs) 17. Tevita Tatola (Rabbitohs) 18. Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans) 19. Will Penisini (Eels) 20. Isaiya Katoa (Panthers) 21. Andrew Fifita (Sharks) 22. Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers) 23. Starford To’a (Wests Tigers) 24. Christian Tuipulotu (Sea Eagles) 25. Eliesa Katoa (Warriors)
NEW ZEALAND SQUAD
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm) Jesse Bromwich (Storm) Kenneath Bromwich (Storm) Dylan Brown (Eels) Erin Clark (Titans) James Fisher-Harris (Panthers) Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles) Peta Hiku (Cowboys) Jahrome Hughes (Storm) Moses Leota (Panthers) Isaac Liu (Titans) Joseph Manu (Roosters) Te Maire Martin (Broncos) Ken Maumalo (Wests Tigers) Ronaldo Mulitalo (Sharks) Griffin Neame (Cowboys) Briton Nikora (Sharks) Marata Niukore (Eels) Isaiah Papali’i (Eels) Jordan Rapana (Raiders) Jordan Riki (Broncos) Brandon Smith (Storm) Scott Sorensen (Panthers) Joseph Tapine (Raiders) Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Warriors)