New Mate Ma'a Tonga coach Frank Endacott wants to stay out of the politics swirling around the team, but is confident that their big names will be available for the Oceania Cup tests.

Endacott was surprisingly confirmed in the job on Wednesday afternoon, the latest twist in a saga that has rumbled on for weeks.

His appointment was a bolt from the blue – he hasn't coached at elite level for more than 15 years – and he only made the decision to accept the role on Wednesday morning.

Former Tongan coach Kristian Woolf took the St Helens job on Tuesday.


It was understood he wanted to continue in the Tongan position, but the board decided to go in another direction.

Woolf had helped to guide the team from obscurity to the semi finals of the 2017 World Cup, where they were the story of the tournament after a number of high profile players, most notably Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, elected to switch allegiances on the eve of the event.

There have been ructions behind the scenes for the last few months, with a core group of players calling for members of the board to step down, while the administrators have had their own concerns about the players (and Woolf) having too much say.

The impasse has led to threats of a player boycott of the upcoming games in October and November, where Tonga will face Great Britain and the Kangaroos in New Zealand.

Endacott, who was one of the Kiwis' most successful coaches in a seven year stint between 1994-2000, has stepped into the breach after a long hiatus from the clipboard.

"I made the decision [on Wednesday] morning and I'm really looking forward to the challenge," Endacott told Radio Sport.

Endacott, who also coached the Warriors and Wigan during a long professional coaching career, understands he is walking into a delicate situation.

"I'm well aware of all the politics that have been happening. But I don't get involved in the politics; I'm there for the players."


"I hope that all the top players make themselves available. If they come on board, and I am sure they will, they have a lot to offer the fans that turn up. We need to be at full strength to have a realistic chance and make our mark."

Tonga has developed into a genuine international force over the last two years, and Endacott doesn't want that impetus to be lost.

"It's very important for the game itself and for Tonga as a nation," said Endacott. "The players have done so much over the last couple of years, and Kristian Woolf, and we don't want to lose that momentum now. There is a lot at stake here and I'm sure the players will play their part."

Endacott has always been recognised as a superb man manager, which helped him achieve so much success with the Kiwis. He never lost a test to England or Great Britain (seven wins and one draw) and achieved a couple of momentous wins over Australia in the late 1990s.

"I haven't coached international rugby league for some years now but it never leaves you ... the values are still the same."

"I want players turning up ready to play, in the right frame of mind. We don't want to blow all the good work that has been done and I'm confident of everyone going in the [same] direction."