With the international eligibility rules loosened, players who don’t get picked or choose not to play for their first choice nation can now play for a second tier nation.
The new rules can only set to strengthen international Rugby League, because talent won’t be sitting on the sideline, while a minnow nation gets thumped into next week.
What’s good in theory is not always good in practice and once again the administration has let down. Meninga stood by his decision to pick Fifita in the world cup squad.
The bad boy of Rugby League who wasn’t picked for the Kangaroo tour at the end of 2016 was told to fix his discipline. Fifita reigned himself in, got some form back and got picked. But then an hour before the team was to assemble for the photo, Fifita called Meninga and told him he was defecting to play for Tonga.
Now that Fifita has turned his back on the Kangaroos and the one man who stood up for him (Meninga), Fifita has probably played his last game for the Kangaroos. Putting that aside it’s just a bad look for Rugby League.
It’s not just Andrew Fifita, Jason Taumalolo decided he would stand down for New Zealand and also go and play for Tonga. The Kiwis however still remain one of the strongest nations, at 6/5 favourites on most sportsbooks according to My Top Sportsbooks.
JT was somewhat silent about it. But the rumbling is that there is a culture mismatch between Kidwell and the NZ players. And that could have led to Taumalolo defecting to Tonga.
Rugby League Administration
Its easy to sit in your armchair and talk about what should have been set in place. But it seems simple that if you were going to allow players to pick a second tier nation over a first or play for a second tier nation in lieu of been selected, some common rules would be set in place, i.e.
Rule 1 – All players should submit a letter of intent that states the priority of the nation they wish to represent, at least 1 month before final selection date.
Rule 2 – If you get chosen for your number 1 pick you play for them. You can not defect to another side.
Rule 3 – If you do not want to play for your number one side, you sit out the tournament.
Tonga Looks Strong
There is one thing this mess of a situation has done. It has made Tonga a real threat to go deep in the competition.
Can they beat Australia? Probably not. Can they beat England and New Zealand? Most Definitely. With Taumalolo and Fifita in their forward pack. Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell and Michale Jennings in in their outside backs. What Tonga have now got is strong go forward in the middle and the ability to score points out wide.
Who’d love to see a Tonga v Australia final?