Wests Tigers prop pulls himself out of Tonga’s World Cup campaign

Stefano Utoikamanu Wests Tigers World Cup PA

Wests Tigers prop Stefano Utoikamanu has made himself unavailable for Tonga at the upcoming World Cup, deciding to focus on pre-season instead.

The 22-year-old powerhouse was included in a 38-man extended squad by Tonga coach Kristian Woolf just over a week ago.

But given that he has only made nine NRL appearances for the Tigers this season due to injury, Utoikamanu has decided to pull himself out of the tournament to focus on a strong pre-season.

Utoikamanu was born in New Zealand and is of Tongan heritage. He says he would still love to represent his Tongan roots in the future.

He said: “I’m honoured to have been included in the extended squad and one day I would love to play in a World Cup.

“It’s just that after the year I’ve had I need to spend as much time as I can getting my strength levels back up. This is my priority right now.

“I’ve been working hard in the gym for a while now, but I haven’t been able to do any of the real heavy stuff.

“Soon I will be able to lift the intensity with the weights and then be at the right level of strength when the squad comes back together in November.”

Woolf had to submit his 24-man Tongan squad to World Cup organisers by September 24, the same day of St Helens’ Grand Final triumph at Old Trafford.

Tonga extended World Cup squad

Talatau Junior Amone

Andrew Fifita

David Fifita

Addin Fonua-Blake

Moeaki Fotuaika

David Fusitu’a

Siliva Havili

Will Hopoate

Konrad Hurrell

Eliesa Katoa

Isaiya Katoa

Sione Katoa

Felise Kaufusi

Oregon Kaufusi

Keaon Koloamatangi

Toluta’u Koula

Tuimoala Lolohea

Soni Luke

Ben Murdoch-Masila

Tesi Niu

Joe ‘Ofahengaue

Haumole ‘Olakau’atu

Taniela ‘Otukolo

Agnatius Paasi

Tevita Pangai Jnr

Taniela Paseka

Will Penisini

Kotoni Staggs

Daniel Suluka-Fifita

Moses Suli

Siosifa Talakai

Tevita Tatola

Siosiua Taukeiaho

Jason Taumalolo

Starford To’a

Christian Tu’ipulotu

Daniel Tupou

Stefano Utoikamanu

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About Drew Darbyshire 8527 Articles
Love Rugby League Deputy Editor. Joined the site ahead of the 2017 World Cup and been a full-time reporter since 2018.

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