Kiwis v Tonga: Ronaldo Mulitalo eager for New Zealand debut after State of Origin disappointment

Coach Michael Maguire has warned his team there's plenty of Kiwi players not involved in this week's test against Mate Ma' Tonga who would be worthy replacements for this year's World Cup.

Four debutants have been named in a new look team, including Ronaldo Mulitalo, 22, whose representative future was up in the air this time last year.

Ronaldo Mulitalo.
Ronaldo Mulitalo. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Now, that future firmly lies with New Zealand. Cronulla Sharks winger Mulitalo is just three days away from realising a childhood dream.

"To have the badge and the logo sitting right over my heart, I'm one of those people who wears my heart on my sleeve," he told Newshub.

Last year, Mulitalo was at the centre of an eligibility controversy.

Ruled out of playing for Queensland the day of what should have been his State of Origin debut, Mulitalo didn't meet the criteria, because of his Kiwi heritage.

He's now relieved he can focus on the black jersey.

"It's one of those full circle moments," he continued. "I'm a born-and-bred New Zealander.

"That's with respect to where I live in Australia, and all my friends and family, but I'm here and I'm really proud to be a Kiwi."

As one of the form wingers in the NRL, with 10 tries in 12 games this year already, having Mulitalo available is a relief for Maguire too.

Ronaldo Mulitalo scores for Cronulla Sharks.
Ronaldo Mulitalo scores for Cronulla Sharks. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

"Ronaldo's shown himself, in the last 12 months, that he can play at this level," Maguire said. "We're obviously looking forward to his performance."

Dylan Brown, Marata Niukore and Moses Leota will also debut on Saturday, but with some big names missing out, Maguire wants all his players to take their opportunity, with fierce competition for places.

"There's a fair few sitting back home, but these boys have got the first opportunity to be back together again.

"Building that connection and cohesion of the team is really important, when you're going into a big tournament."

"Hopefully, I'll go out on Saturday night, and do myself and all the country proud," Mulitalo continued.

A country starved of international rugby league will be hoping so too.

Join us at 5:40pm Saturday for live updates of the Kiwis v Tonga test