Andrew Fifita will play for Tonga at the World Cup.
Andrew Fifita will play for Tonga at the World Cup. SUPPLIED

Fifita says decision to play for Tonga family oriented

ANDREW Fifita says his decision to pull out of the Kangaroos World Cup squad was motivated by family - not money.

The NSW Origin and Cronulla prop dropped a bombshell on Thursday morning, phoning Test coach Mal Meninga to explain why he wanted to play for Tonga - and not Australia, in the upcoming World Cup.

Fifita, who had been named in the Kangaroos squad on Tuesday, explained his decision to The Daily Telegraph just moments after breaking the news to Meninga.

"I rang Mal because I didn't want to put anyone out or do something wrong,'' Fifita said.

"I told him; "At this stage, for the World Cup, there's nothing more I'd like to do, than represent my family and give back to Tonga, I think they need it.

"It's not about money or anything else. It's about giving back and it's for my father (Sione) and his family.

"I think it's time, just to have a real crack, while I'm in my prime.

"That's what is driving me even more.''

Fifita's decision to choose Tonga over Australia emerged 24-hours after Cowboys wrecking-ball Jason Taumalolo also chose to rule himself out of selection for New Zealand.

Taumalolo will now play alongside Fifita, in a formidable Tongan forward pack - while robbing themselves of a potential $30,000 by playing with Australia and New Zealand compared to a tournament pay-packet of $3,000 with Tonga.

Since their decision no team has been more heavily backed in World Cup betting, according to the TAB.

Tonga has firmed from $81 into $17 with Australia favourites ($1.20) followed by England and New Zealand ($9).

Fifita said Taumalolo's decision played a role in his own brave call.

"We've been chatting over the last three days,'' Fifita said.

Jason Taumalolo during a Cowboys Civic reception at The Strand Park Townsville.

"It was lingering in his mind for a while now also, but I told him 'if you make the commitment, I'll make the commitment.''

Penrith prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been called in to the Kangaroos squad as Fifita's replacement.

The boom forward had a break out year for Penrith and won the club's highest honour, the Merv Cartwright Medal at the Panthers presentation night on Wednesday.

Fifita informed Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga of his decision to defect on Thursday morning.

"Andrew called me and said he was passionate about playing for Tonga and I respect and support that decision," Meninga said.

"It is obviously a significant boost for Tonga as well as the World Cup - and international Rugby League in general.

"At the same time it is also a great opportunity for someone like Reagan, who has been outstanding for the Panthers.

"I'm extremely excited about seeing Reagan in a Kangaroos jersey."

With Fifita and Taumalolo in the Tongan pack, the Pacific Island is now a huge chance of making the finals of the tournament.

Tonga World Cup 2017 Squad: Andrew Fifita, Mahe Fonua, David Fusitu'a, Siliva Havilli, Ata Hingano, Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Michael Jennings, Solomone Kata, Sione Katoa, Samisoni Langi, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sika Manu, Manu Ma'u, Sam Moa, Ben Murdoch Masila, Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai jnr, Ukuma Ta'ai, Sio Siua Taukieaho, Jason Taumalolo, Peni Terepo

News Corp Australia

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