13th October 2017, 12:12 | super_league
Nickname: Mate Ma'a Tonga
RLIF Ranking: 11th
Not many people will look past the big three of Australia, New Zealand and England at the Rugby League World Cup in 2017.
With the likes of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita choosing Tonga over New Zealand and Australia respectively, some people see the Tongans as the team to break the dominance of the top three.
A host of top Super League talent joins a strong core that will battle for a spot at Brisbane Stadium on Saturday 2 December.
Mahe Fonua has been dominant for Hull FC in the last two years and despite heading back to NRL side Wests Tigers in 2018, the winger will want to prove his quality on the biggest stage.
Fonua finished fourth in the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel voting and made the Betfred Super League Dream for a second year in a row. The winger has scored 25 tries in two Super League seasons for the black and whites and will be looking to use his pace and strength to rack up plenty of metres for Tonga.
Another Super League winger and Rugby League icon is Salford’s Manu Vatuvei. Since joining the Red Devils, ‘the beast’ has scored five tries in seven appearances and averages 127 metres a game. Vatuvei has plenty of experience on the world stage and has scored eight tries in nine World Cup appearances. Manu was part of the first New Zealand team to win the World Cup when they triumphed over Australia in the 2008 final.
Joining Manu is his Salford teammate Ben Murdoch-Masila. The second row scored 14 tries in Betfred Super League and made his first appearance in the Super League Dream Team in 2017. Hull FC’s Sika Manu joins Murdoch-Masila in the Tongan second row. Another World Cup winner with New Zealand in 2008, Manu has been solid for FC and was named their 2017 Player of the Year.
Catalans’ Sam Moa links up with the Tonga squad for the first time since April 2013. Moa endured a tough first year in Super League as Catalans secured Super League status in the £1M Game. Sam’s strength and work rate was a real asset to the Dragons in 2017, leading the team in metres and carries.
Sam Moa only knows one way to tackle - HARD 👊 pic.twitter.com/Imk4zhZgMO— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) August 22, 2017
Ukuma Ta’ai is the final Super League player in the Tonga team. Ta’ai has scored 16 Super League tries in the last two seasons and joins the Tonga squad for the first time since 2015. The prop made 1558 metres and 458 tackles in 19 games for a Giants side that made the top eight after fighting for survival in the Qualifiers during 2016.