Jason Taumalolo is a real weapon for Tonga. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Jason Taumalolo is a real weapon for Tonga. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

How Test hype is inspiring Tonga’s Taumalolo

JASON Taumalolo says he's still coming to grips with the impact his commitment to Tonga has had on the country ahead of Saturday's sold-out Test against the Kangaroos.

Tonga became the feel good story of rugby league when they progressed to last year's World Cup semi-final.

They have carried that momentum into 2018 by arranging a maiden encounter with the world champions at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

Taumalolo was the face of that Cup charge and, in a nod to just how preciously he is regarded in the Pacific Island nation, has since had the national competition named after him.

Fans flocked to watch the Tongan training session on Wednesday and the team is bracing for unparalleled scenes this weekend.

"Last year's World Cup showed that (support) and when the game was announced everyone was painting their cars red and getting themselves ready," Taumalolo said of the hype around the side.

"I'm not used to it … we didn't think it'd have this much affect on our people.

Fifita and Taumalolo are just part of the package. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Fifita and Taumalolo are just part of the package. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

"There's a lot of feel good stories … a big list, but for us it's not so much about a fairytale it's about how happy we are to come back and play for Tonga."

Taumalolo will join Andrew Fifita in a devastating pack that also boasts Sio Siua Taukaeiaho, Addin Fonua-Blake and Tevita Pangai that could unsettle an Australia side who lost to New Zealand 26-24 last weekend.

But the North Queensland enforcer isn't about to poke a side that hasn't endured back-to-back defeats since 2015 or lost to team other than New Zealand, England or Great Britain since 1978.

"They're a new group of boys - the next generation of Kangaroos players - and they might have had a few lapses but don't get me wrong they're still No.1 in rugby league and there's a reason they're in that jersey," he said.

"The

"A lot of people are saying there's a chance of us beating them but I'm sure (coach) Mal Meninga will get the boys ready and wanting to make up for last week."



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