RLWC loss won't cloud bright Tonga future

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 RLWC loss won't cloud bright Tonga future
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After taking the international game by storm over the last five years, Kristian Woolf insists Tonga's Rugby League World Cup exit at the hands of Samoa won't be the beginning of the end for his side.

Woolf's men fell to a 20-18 loss in Warrington on Sunday (Monday AEDT) and missed the chance to reach a second-straight semi-final.

The defeat bookended a prosperous period for the small Pacific kingdom, who turned the game upside down in 2017 when the likes of Jason Taumaolo and Andrew Fifita elected to represent their nation of heritage.

In that time they have beaten Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain and while they never got going against Samoa, their side is littered with NRL stars of the future.

Their entire three-quarter line was aged 25 or under and they have secured the allegiance of the rampaging David Fifita.

Halfback Isaiya Katoa, who is bound for the Dolphins, has yet to play an NRL game and was completing his HSC in between games and training.

"We know what we're capable of, and we just haven't quite reached those heights this tournament," Woolf said.

"We're a little bit younger and newer from five years ago.

"It doesn't take away the disappointment today, but it is exciting.

"The future is bright and we'll certainly have strong teams going forward."

When those players might be seen in a Tonga jersey again, remains a mystery. 

The NRL opted to scrap the Pacific Test for 2023, and Woolf doesn't know if his side will be involved in post-season matches in Australasia, or whether they will tour Europe.

"I'd love to take Tonga back to Tonga and play Samoa there, and I'm sure Samoa would like us to go there at some stage," Woolf said.

"It's always great to come over here (to the UK) and I know that the game over here needs international rugby league.

"It's frustrating (to not know what's next). But I've been involved in here for nine years, and it's never been any different.

"I certainly hope that going forward, we can get past that and have a calendar that involves all the teams and and gives teams like Tonga, just as much opportunity as Australia, New Zealand and England."


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