Tui Lolohea wants to build on Tonga momentum after three-year absence

Drew Darbyshire
Tui Lolohea Tonga PA

Huddersfield full-back Tui Lolohea wants to create more history with Tonga at this year’s World Cup after beating Australia and Great Britain last time out. 

The Pacific nation have not played a test match since beating Australia for the first time ever in autumn 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tonga were making huge strides on the international scene before the world was struck down by coronavirus. Kristian Woolf’s side reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2017 and then picked up historic wins against Australia and Great Britain in 2019.

Woolf says Tonga are capable of “shaking things up” in this year’s World Cup, which is hosted in England.

Lolohea has played an integral part to Tonga’s meteoric rise. The Huddersfield full-back has won 13 caps since his Tonga debut in 2015.

The 27-year-old was born in New Zealand but is of Tongan descent through his father’s side of the family.

He has represented the Kiwis on the international stage before switching allegiance to Tonga.

Speaking to Love Rugby League, Lolohea said: “I was quite fortunate enough to play a test for the Kiwis but then play 13 more tests for Tonga.

“I grew up on my Tongan side but growing up in New Zealand so I’m pretty proud of both.

“Representing Tonga is quite special, it is where my dad is from. That’s his main culture and language. I grew up with my dad so I grew up in a Tongan way and English was kind of like a second language for me at home because I learned Tongan so I could speak to my dad.

“Tonga is almost like a third world country and people are still living off the land so for such a tiny nation, to make them people proud makes my heart warm.”

Tui Lolohea excited by Tonga World Cup hopes

Tonga are drawn in a group alongside the Cook Islands, Wales and Papua New Guinea at this year’s World Cup.

Woolf’s side play New Zealand in a test match in Auckland on June 25 as World Cup preparations ramp up. Lolohea says he is looking forward to see what Tonga can do in the tournament.

Lolohea added: “It is exciting. We obviously beat Australia but we’ve not played since then which is probably a downfall for us.

“I’m sure we’ve got a warm-up game before the World Cup. Hopefully that will get us playing together which would be quite cool.”

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