Sacked Wallabies star Israel Folau has been snubbed by Tonga for their upcoming rugby league internationals.
The Tonga Invitational XIII squad for the Oceania Cup and the match against the touring Great Britian Rugby League Lions in Hamilton was announced today, with big names Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita, David Fusitua, William Hopoate and Daniel Tupou headlining the side.
However, Folau was a notable exclusion after recently announcing that he intended to make his league return for the Tongan national side.
Tongan National Rugby League chairman George Koloamatangi announced last month that Folau, and brother John, will pull on the red of Tonga in the Oceania Cup.
But complications due to the Rugby League International Federation's suspension of Tonga meant Folau's return to league was blocked - and now he hasn't been named in the squad.
Folau's multimillion-dollar contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in May over a social media post in which he paraphrased a Bible passage, saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle terminated the Folau's multi-million dollar contract, on the advice of an independent panel, for "high level" breaches of the player's code of conduct.
The Tonga Invitational XIII named today contains 17 players who featured at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
"I'm excited to be getting back into camp with my teammates now we have certainty that we will be playing these two Test matches," Taumalolo said.
"The best possible team will be taking the field and we know our match against Great Britain in Hamilton will be incredibly competitive. Then we get the chance to have another go at Australia in Auckland during the Triple Header on November 2.
"We are pumped and focussed on these two major games and have plenty of motivation to play our best. So I just want to say to our Tongan fans - thank you for sticking by us. We love you and can't wait to put on our jersey and do you proud.
"You are truly the best fans in the world, and we are very grateful for your patience. We can't wait to witness the 'sea of red' back again in Hamilton, and let's show the world we can fill up Eden Park."
Tonga Invitational XIII coach Kristian Woolf - who is back in charge after Frank Endacott was initially appointed - said he was delighted to have assembled a squad capable of challenging the strongest rugby league nations on the planet.
"This is a great opportunity for us to go up against two of the best teams in the world," Woolf said.
"Australia are the top-ranked team on the planet, and we also get to face the Great Britain League Lions, an outfit that has not been together since 2007.
"But not only will these Tests be historic, they will be about uniting a country – all our team members want to do is make the wonderful people of Tonga proud.
"And to do that we are looking forward to the challenge of playing the best two teams in world rugby league, and showing what we are capable of."
Taumalolo said he and his teammates were delighted to be able to concentrate on preparing for action on the field after threats of a player boycott.
"The players are happy and relieved that this matter has been resolved and we can focus on what we need to do - play the best footy we can for our families and our people," Taumalolo said.
TONGA INVITATIONAL XIII squad to contest the GB League Lions Tour and Oceania Cup:
John Asiata, Andrew Fifita, Addin Fonua-Blake, David Fusitu'a, Siliva Havili, Ata Hingano, William Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Michael Jennings, Sione Katoa, Tuimoala Lolohea, Manu Ma'u, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai Jr, Kotoni Staggs, Tevita Junior Tatola, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Jason Taumalolo, Daniel Tupou, Sitili Tupouniua