Garth Brennan has resigned as Tonga's coach at the upcoming World Cup 9s due to political infighting.
Brennan's decision to stand down from the role comes ahead of an RLIF board meeting on Thursday to discuss the internal problems around the Tonga team and a shock bid for Israel Folau to play in the two Tests.
The Tonga National Rugby League announced Brennan as World Cup 9s coach, while giving Kristian Woolf his marching orders over a bitter dispute between the players, led by Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo, and TNRL chairman George Koloamatangi and secretary William Edwards.
However, Brennan believed he would be working with Woolf, who was behind Tonga's rise at the 2017 World Cup to become an international powerhouse after convincing the likes of Fifita and Taumalolo to choose their nation of heritage over Australia and New Zealand.
"I wasn't aware that there were all these underlying things going on in the background with the board and all the players when I first agreed to the job," said Brennan, who recently parted ways with Gold Coast Titans.
"When I found out that there was a bit of a shit fight going on behind the scenes I just felt like I didn't want to get involved at this point so I withdrew. It was too political for me and I have just come out of a difficult situation at the Gold Coast so it wasn't something I wanted to get myself into straight away.
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"When I was asked to do it I thought I was doing it as a bit of a favour to Kristian Woolf and I thought it would be a bit of fun and chance to get back involved in footy but when I found out how political it was I just felt that wasn't the best course for me at this point."
Woolf's return would ensure an end to the stand-off that threatens to undo much of the good work behind Tonga's rise to be the game's fourth-ranked nation and establishment of regular Tests against the Kangaroos and Kiwis.
Tonga is scheduled to play Great Britain in Hamilton on October 26 and Australia in an Oceania Cup match on November 2 as part of a tripleheader at Eden Park.
Former Kiwis coach Frank Endacott has been appointed to replace Woolf as coach for the two Tests but it is understood that he would be prepared to walk away for the good of the game if he believed his resignation was going to help resolve the dispute.
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Endacott is also understood to be concerned about the strength of the team at his disposal, with Folau and his brother John so far the only players to publicly declare their availability for the Tests.
However, the RLIF is yet to approve Folau after directors, including ARLC chairman Peter Beattie ad NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, were taken by surprise when the TNRL issued a press release on Monday declaring the brothers would return to league with Mate Ma'a Tonga.
Fifita, Taumalolo, Will Hopoate and Sio Siua Taukeiaho have said they will not play while Koloamatangi and Edwards remain on the TNRL board.