Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita has withdrawn from Australia’s squad for the World Cup to play for Tonga.
Fifita was named alongside Jason Taumalolo and Will Hopoate in the Tongan squad on Thursday after Fifita phoned Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga to decline his selection for Australia.
Fifita has played seven times for Australia but was controversially banned from the Kangaroos squad at the end of the 2016 season for the Four Nations Tournament in England because of alleged misbehaviour.
“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.”
In the process, Fifita has foregone a potential pay day of $50,000 should the Kangaroos win the World Cup. For Tonga, he will get a $3000 participation fee and a daily allowance of just $30.
Tonga were $81 shots (UBET) but are now priced at $31 to win the tournament. They have New Zealand, Scotland and Samoa in their group, with the clash with Pacific rivals Samoa in Hamilton one of the standout fixtures.
Penrith’s Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been called into the Kangaroos squad following Fifita’s withdrawal.
“At the same time it is also a great opportunity for someone like Reagan, who has been outstanding for the Panthers,” Meninga said.
“I’m extremely excited about seeing Reagan in a Kangaroos jersey.”