Jason Taumalolo in action during Tonga’s 2019 win over Australia (Image: Fiona Goodall)Sign up to FREE email alerts from Mirror – RugbyInvalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.SubscribeWe use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time.More infoThank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
A decision on this year’s World Cup is not now expected until next week – as Tongan star Jason Taumalolo heads a list of NRL players committing to the tournament.
The competition’s board will meet on Wednesday to continue to discuss options following the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand.
But Mirror Sport understands that discussions with competing nations and players could extend into next week, with organisers exploring every avenue possible to achieve the best outcome for the tournament.
That includes the possible inclusion of Australian Indigenous and New Zealand Maori teams, with an increasing number of NRL players expressing their willingness to travel.
Among those is North Queensland Cowboys loose forward Taumalolo, who is widely credited with launching the rise of Tonga in recent years after switching from New Zealand for the 2017 World Cup.
Taumololo also helped Tonga beat Great Britain two years ago
(Image: Fiona Goodall)
Since then, Tonga have beaten the Kiwis, Kangaroos and Great Britain, as well as taking England to the final hooter in the semi-finals four years ago.
Taumalolo – who signed a 10-year, A$10m contract with the Cowboys in 2017 – said: “I myself am still going over to play in the World Cup. It's obviously disappointing to have Australia and New Zealand pull out but two countries pulling out doesn't really hamper what the game is all about.
“It's about international footy and getting other countries and nations ready to play each other. Obviously I can't change anything, I've just got to roll with it I guess.”
England’s Tom Burgess – who plays for South Sydney – has put back his wedding to take part this year, with national team-mate Elliot Whitehead another to speak out in support of the tournament in recent days.
Taumalolo said: “You see how proud Tommy is to represent England. The end-of-the-year tournament will be a great example of guys who actually do want to represent their country.
Tom Burgess breaking clear for England against New Zealand
(Image: Laurence Griffiths)
“I'm part of it and I'm sure my teammates are part of it too. I guess it's a different feeling when you pull on your international jersey and get to play for the people that you represent. Hopefully I get to do that again at the end of the year.”
And Taumalolo also believes the prospect of Kangaroos and Kiwi players switching allegiance to other countries they qualify for could actually enhance the tournament.
He added: “I'm not sure what the players from Australia and New Zealand are going to do, with guys having heritage aligned to other countries.
“We'll see if they return back to play for their heritage but it would make for a pretty interesting international set of fixtures to be honest. I really think you could see something special and we could see a few upsets too.”