Solomone Kata celebrates his first-half try against the Roosters on Saturday.

Tonga name NRL talent for RLWC qualifier

Tonga have named an 18-man squad packed with NRL experience for their Rugby League World Cup qualifier against Cook Islands this Saturday night.

All bar one player in the squad have tasted top-grade NRL football and both the backline and forward pack boast plenty of firepower.

Sea Eagles flanker Jorge Taufua, breakout Warriors star Solomone Kata and Storm three-quarter Mahe Fonua add punch to the backline. The pack will be boosted by the go-forward brought by the likes of Eels firebrands Manu Ma'u and Peni Terepo, along with UK-bound ex-Panther Sika Manu and another young Warriors star in Albert Vete.

Hulking Panthers Leilani Latu and Ben Murdoch-Masila add some bulk to the Tongan bench along with Cronulla's David Fifita.

Townsville Blackhawks mentor Kristian Woolf returns to coach the side that last played in a heart-stopping 18-16 loss to Samoa in the 2015 Pacific Test double-header.

Full Squad:

1 Solomone Kata, New Zealand Warriors
2 Jorge Taufua, Manly Sea Eagles
3 Mahe Fonua, Melbourne Storm
4 Moses Pangai, Townsville Blackhawks
5 Delouise Hoeter, Wests Tigers
6 Pat Politoni, Cronulla Sharks
7 Daniel Foster, Penrith Panthers
8 Albert Vete, New Zealand Warriors
9 Joel Luani, West Tigers
10 Peni Terepo, Parramatta Eels
11 Sika Manu, Penrith Panthers
12 Manu Ma’u, Parramatta Eels
13 Joe Ofahengaue, Brisbane Broncos
14 Nafe Seluine, Burleigh Bears
15 Ukuma Taai, Huddersfield Giants
16 Ben Murdoch-Masila, Penrith Panthers
17 Leilani Latu, Penrith Panthers
18 David Fifita, Cronulla Sharks

Coach: Kristian Woolf (Townsville Blackhawks)