Former Kiwis coach Frank Endacott will take charge of Mate Ma'a Tonga in the end-of-season Tests against Great Britain and Australia after accepting an approach to replace Kristian Woolf as part of new coaching staff that includes Manu Vatuvei, Lesley Vainikolo and Duanne Mann.
Tongan National Rugby League chairman George Koloamatangi announced the appointment of Endacott on Thursday and said that while Woolf's contribution to the nation's rise needed to be acknowledged it was "time for a change".
The decision comes amid a stand-off with players, who have threatened to boycott the Tests unless Koloamatangi and secretary William Edwards are removed from the board and Woolf is reinstated.
Endacott, who also coached the Warriors and Super League clubs Wigan and Widnes, is yet to speak to any of the Tonga players but said he was confident of fielding a strong team.
After being approached by Mann about the role on Wednesday, he said his only reluctance would have been if Tonga had been playing New Zealand as he presented the Kiwis players with their jerseys before the mid-year Test between the two nations in Auckland.
"It's always a challenge to take on the top teams, and both Australia and Great Britain have been in the top echelon for years," Endacott said.
"The Mate Ma'a Tonga players are world class and we see how good they are week in and week out in both the NRL and Super League. To have a chance to work with those players will be outstanding."
Koloamatangi said Endacott would bring a wealth of experience to the role for the October 26 Test against Wayne Bennett's Great Britain Lions in Hamilton and the November 2 Oceania Cup clash with the Kangaroos at Eden Park.
Endacott previously coached the Kiwis between 1994 and 2000, and he has also been a New Zealand selector.
"Frank had a long tenure as coach of the NZ Kiwis, and has coached the NZ Warriors in the NRL competition and Wigan in the English Super League," he said.
Another coach with NRL experience is set to be appointed to the Tonga staff, which includes Mann as football director, Vainikolo as assistant trainer and Vatuvei, who will focus on skills coaching for the outside backs.
Former Gold Coast Titans coach Garth Brennan will coach Tonga at the World Cup 9s on October 18-19 at Bankwest Stadium.