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Tonga qualified for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup following a 28-8 win over Cook Islands.

While not as extravagant as Panthers General Manager Phil Gould's five-year plan, Tonga's 28-8 World Cup qualifying win over the Cook Islands on Saturday night offers coach Kristian Woolf a two-year window to build on the team's budding culture.

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The ninth team to qualify for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup – with a tenth team to join them in the coming weeks in either Lebanon or South Africa – Tonga coach Woolf is excited by the prospects of the two years ahead particularly in terms of building team culture and enticing potential sponsors.

While their 20-point win over the Kukis isn't a fair reflection of the game that was, Tonga will now head into their fifth World Cup full of confidence.

"It means we can sort of plan ahead now for the next couple of years. We know we have the April/May Test against Samoa next year and the year after and obviously we would like to organise a game for this time next year," Woolf said. 

"It'll give us some really good momentum and allow us to continue what's already started I suppose. We talk about the Tongan culture, but there's also a footy culture we're starting to build as well. 

"It's getting stronger and stronger when you get the same group together and it gives us a chance to keep planning and building on it over the next two years."

"In terms of being able to get some sponsorship and income, we don't get a lot, so it's certainly something we need and something we can plan for a bit better. It's something we can spell to sponsors as well. 

"When it first came up [that we had to qualify now] I was certainly thinking two years is a long way out from a World Cup also, but now it's given us a chance to keep building."

Consistency is key for Tonga, and the fact they were able to have nine players back up from their mid-season Test against Samoa to face the Cook Islands excited Woolf.

Considering injuries have decimated New Zealand's touring squad of England, there could've been a further two return for Tonga with Tuimoala Lolohea and Sio Siua Taukeiaho selected for the Kiwis.

"We have a real core group now. Of that crew there are definitely a lot of them who have doubled up in previous years and even from the last World Cup. It's a very young squad still, and some of them have only just turned 21," Woolf said. 

"Solomone Kata is a good example. They'll continue to improve in the NRL hopefully and we'll keep a strong nucleus of them together. The tighter we can keep them together, the stronger we'll be."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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