Kristian Woolf

Tonga Rugby League says it had no choice but to sack Woolf

TNRL Secretary and former international William Edwards said the board was moving forward with preparations for Tonga's October tests against Great Britain and Australia without him.

Edwards said Woolf was set to be offered a contract, before a sudden and public spat which led to his dismissal.

The prominent lawyer said the problems became to be apparent when a group of players wrote a letter of concern to the International Federation, the NRL, the government and other stakeholders in August.

Kristian Woolf appointed St Helen’s head coach

The 44-year-old has spent the past five years in charge of Tonga, leading them to a World Cup semi-final in 2017.

He had been working as assistant to ex-Saints boss Nathan Brown at NRL side Newcastle Knights and became interim head coach when Brown left in August.

Woolf has signed a two-year deal with Super League leaders Saints, with a further 12-month option.

"I'm confident we can achieve great things together," Woolf said. "I'm excited and privileged to be joining St Helens as head coach. It's a great opportunity for me."

Tonga's Woolf takes charge of Newcastle Knights

Brown last week announced he would leave the club at the end of the season but tendered his immediate resignation on Tuesday after his players were accused of lacking effort in Saturday's 42 point loss to the West Tigers, which all but killed off their finals hopes.

Newcastle chief executive Philip Gardner was at a loss to explain the crushing defeat, which left the Knights in 11th spot, three points outside the top eight, and needing a minor miracle to make the finals.

Woolf hits back at Taumalolo critics

The pair's move to shun New Zealand and Australia has earned mixed responses from both sides of the Tasman, as they joined the likes of New Zealanders Manu Ma'u, Sio Siua Taukieaho and David Fusitu'a at Tonga.

The former Kiwi captain Benji Marshall claimed Taumalolo's decision was "disrespectful", while Cooper Cronk said Fifita's move to change allegiances after being named for Australia was "poor".