Jason Taumalolo

Kiwis captain headed for Taumalolo showdown

Except from one very important man.

Jason Taumalolo has dominated every aspect of this week's pre-Test build-up, having rocked the Kiwis with his last-minute Cup defection to Tonga.

The 24-year-old powerhouse has done all he can to avoid the public spotlight before the showdown in Hamilton, but he'll do plenty of talking on the field, Tongan coach Kristian Woolf says.

"Jason is Jason, always the same - out there having a laugh, having fun and, like everyone else, looking forward to the challenge," Woolf said.

Taumalolo inspires trouncing

All the talk about the ex-New Zealand lock's controversial defection did not prove a distraction as Tonga cruised to a 50-4 win over Scotland in their Rugby League World Cup opener.

Taumalolo came up with the most runs (18) for his team, eating up 197 metres, making 19 tackles, and a line break in his 57 minutes on the field.

Tonga threatened to hammer the record books as much as the Bravehearts in their nine tries to one rout in front of 9216 fans.

Parramatta flyer Michael Jennings bagged a first half hat-trick, equalling the most in a Cup match by a Tongan.

Taumalolo runs riot in big Tonga win

The team that was the talk of the World Cup prior to the tournament kicked off due to the high-profile inclusions of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita wasted no time to show that what is on paper will transfer to the field, Michael Jennings scoring the opening four-pointer of his first half hat-trick inside the first three minutes.

A wish for Taumalolo respect


Kiwis coach David Kidwell has accused Jason Taumalolo of a lack of respect after his controversial decision to switch allegiance to Tonga.

Taumalolo - rated the best forward in world rugby league - opted to play for Tonga at the Rugby League World Cup after 10 caps for the Kiwis.

Kidwell told the Brisbane Courier Mail newspaper that Taumalolo's actions still rankled and he said there were no guarantees the North Queensland Cowboys star would play for the Kiwis again.

Emotional Kiwis coach can't guarantee return for Taumalolo

Kidwell today regularly had to take a moment to compose himself when talking about his nightmare Cup preparation.

He was blindsided by Taumalolo's decision to play for Tonga along with the likes of fellow Kiwis Manu Ma'u, Sio Siua Taukieaho and David Fusitu'a.

While Kidwell said he respected Taumalolo's call and believed the hardships had made him a better coach, he was clearly still unhappy with the Cowboys wrecking ball.

Asked if the door would be open to Taumalolo for a future Kiwi return, Kidwell said: "The space we are in right now, it's not up to me."

Taumalolo won't bite over defection to Tonga

The Kiwis captain Adam Blair and former captain Benji Marshall have taken a swipe at the North Queensland Cowboys lock since his decision, saying he'd betrayed the black-and-white jumper.

Taumalolo says he chose Tonga to help develop the game there.

He arrived in Nuku'alofa on Thursday for a pre-Cup visit, he gave short shrift to the likes of Blair and Marshall.

"Obviously I've caused a bit of media stir and all that, but at the end of the day, I'm here to play for my country and I'm looking forward to doing that," Taumalolo told TVNZ.

Taumalolo offloaded from flight'

Tongan rugby league star Jason Taumalolo's size helps him on the pitch, but it's seen him asked to leave a flight after the plane was overloaded. 

Tongan coach Kristian Woolf told TVNZ the 24-year-old missed the team's flight to Tonga on Thursday because there was too much weight on the plane. 

Both Taumalolo and 24-year-old hooker Siliva Havili were offloaded from the flight and were expected to link up with the rest of the team in Tonga later in the day, catching a later flight. 

No anger from Taumalolo

Woolf at the weekend attempted to hose down suggestions Taumalolo's decision to pick Tonga over New Zealand was a result of displeasure with the Kiwi camp.

However, when the 24-year-old was asked in another interview if he had a problem with coach Kidwell, he replied: "I'm sorry I can't answer that".

"Whether there's something there between Jason and Kidwell, I don't know – it's not something I asked him about," Woolf told Fairfax Media. 

Taumalolo fired up for Tonga

The 24-year-old was named North Queensland's player of the year at the weekend, an honour that capped off a difficult week after he controversially turned his back on the Kiwis to play for Tonga at the looming tournament.

Taumalolo has had a hectic season but is adamant he still has the energy for test rugby league at the highest level and will do everything he can to help Tonga.

"I go into camp next week and I'm looking forward to another chapter in my international career. It should be an exciting World Cup," Taumalolo told the Townsville Bulletin.

Taumalolo again named Cowboys' best

The 24-year-old, who this week shocked rugby league circles by defecting to Tonga from New Zealand for the upcoming World Cup, became the first forward to run for 5000m in a season in 2017.

"Jason has again had a huge year," Cowboys general manager of football Peter Parr said.

"With a season-ending injury to our co-captain Matt Scott, Jason stepped up enormously, leading by example week-in, week-out."

Taumalolo was also joint winner of the players' player award, alongside emerging halfback Michael Morgan.