Taumalolo wants to 'give back' to Tongan rugby league
RUGBY LEAGUE: Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo has dropped a World Cup bombshell by choosing to play for Tonga after withdrawing from the New Zealand squad.
Taumalolo, who ran for more than 5000 metres for the Cowboys in their run to last weekend's NRL grand final, played for Tonga at the 2013 World Cup.
Taumalolo released a statement, saying he made the decision to help the Tongan World Cup campaign and the development of rugby league in the country.
"I really enjoyed my time within the Tongan World Cup squad last time and have had a long time association with Tongan coach Kristian Woolf," he said.
"I just feel it's time to give back and hopefully I can assist and inspire young Tongan players to chase their NRL goals.
"I see with the new international rule change an opportunity to represent both Tonga and NZ throughout my career, I have and will always be proud to wear the Kiwis jersey.
"I just feel the World Cup provides developing nations like Tonga and opportunity to play on the big stage and I would like to help them with their campaign."
Taumalolo's withdrawal has rocked the Kiwis' preparation.
New Zealand play Tonga on November 11 at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium, which will pit Taumalolo against his former Kiwi teammates.
He will link with former Cowboys under-20s mentor and current Townsville Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf, who has been coaching Tonga since 2015.