Tonga down Samoa, want Aussies

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

An­drew Fi­fita says he and Tonga are ready for a shot at the Kan­ga­roos, declar­ing it would be a cer­tain crowd puller for in­ter­na­tional rugby league.

Fi­fita helped kick­start a rev­o­lu­tion of the global game last year when he walked away from Aus­tralia to play for Tonga, cre­at­ing un­prece­dented in­ter­est in the Pa­cific na­tions with the help of Ja­son Tau­malolo.

Tonga are des­per­ate for a maiden test against the Kan­ga­roos at the end of this year and did their chances no harm in Satur­day night’s 38-22 de­feat of Samoa in front of al­most 18,000 peo­ple at Syd­ney’s Camp­bell­town Sta­dium.

It came off the back of last year’s World Cup suc­cess, where they drew sold-out crowds against both New Zealand and Eng­land as they fell two points short of the fi­nal.

‘‘It’d be a mas­sive game if we can get it on,’’ Fi­fita said.

‘‘Look­ing at last year I went and played for Aus­tralia (in the rep­re­sen­ta­tive round) and there was barely any­one in the crowd for Aus­tralia and New Zealand down in Can­berra.

‘‘Then I came here [to the Pa­cific test at Camp­bell­town] and it was a full house. You look at the crowd tonight, wher­ever we play the crowd is go­ing to fol­low.’’

Both coach Kris­tian Woolf and Tau­malolo have also been vo­cal this week about their de­sire to meet Aus­tralia, how­ever, no match is locked in.

The most likely out­come would be in Aus­tralia in late Oc­to­ber, po­ten­tially the week af­ter the Kan­ga­roos face the Ki­wis in Auck­land on Oc­to­ber 13.

‘‘We’re try­ing to move for­ward and we want to play the big­ger and bet­ter teams,’’ Fi­fita said.

‘‘It’s not just my­self. For the peo­ple, Tonga in gen­eral, we want to see it.

‘‘We’ll let them play their test against New Zealand and if they want to back up and face us we’ll be more than happy to.

‘‘They’re the cur­rent world cham­pi­ons and the miss­ing piece of the puz­zle.’’

If they did meet, Fi­fita is con­fi­dent they could mix it with his for­mer team of choice af­ter they put 36 points on Samoa on Satur­day night in a 40-minute pe­riod where they had 70 per cent of pos­ses­sion.

‘‘We’re still build­ing,’’ Fi­fita said.

‘‘We’’ve got a fair amount of tal­ent off with Fus (David Fusitu’a), Solomone Kata and Te­vita Pan­gai Ju­nior still to come into this team.

‘‘At fully fit, we’re go­ing to be hard to beat. We just want to build the game even more, es­pe­cially at an in­ter­na­tional level.’’

Mean­while, Woolf said he also wanted a reg­u­lar test with New Zealand in­serted into the calendar.

‘‘It’s a grudge match,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve cer­tainly got plenty of blokes who played for New Zealand and play for us now and that adds to it.

‘‘We just think it’s an event that will get big­ger and big­ger and has to be a reg­u­lar on the in­ter­na­tional calendar.’’

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