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Utoikamanu unavailable for World Cup

Stefano Utoikamanu has made himself unavailable for Tonga at the upcoming Rugby League World Cup in England.

The Wests Tigers prop, along with club teammates Joe Ofahengaue and Starford To’a, was included in a 38-player Mate Ma’a Tonga squad just over a week ago. 

He’s since decided to forego a potential World Cup appearance to focus on his strength and fitness in readiness for 2023 pre-season training.

The 22-year-old had an injury-marred 2022 season managing to play just nine games. He suffered a serious ankle injury against the Warriors in Round 3 and then missed the final eight games of the season after breaking his wrist (scaphoid) against the Eels in Round 17.

Utoikamanu is hoping to get back to full strength over the coming weeks but says he’d dearly love to represent Mate Ma’a Tonga in the future.

I’m honoured to have been included in the extended squad and one day I would love to play in a World Cup.

Stefano Utoikamanu

“It’s just that after the year I’ve had I need to spend as much time as I can getting my strength levels back up. This is my priority right now.”

A broken scaphoid has prevented Utoikamanu doing any heavy lifting but that is about to change.

“I’ve been working hard in the gym for a while now, but I haven’t been able to do any of the real heavy stuff.

“Soon I will be able to lift the intensity with the weights and then be at the right level of strength when the squad comes back together in November.”

Utoikamanu says he’s hoping for a much brighter 2023 season for himself, and the team.

“I’m due some luck on the injury front, that’s for sure.

“I think the squad looks good, particularly with the additions of Api (Koroisau) and Isaiah (Papali’i).

“I think Api will be awesome for us and I can’t wait to play alongside Isaiah too. He’s an absolute machine."

Stefano Utoikamanu

Utoikamanu is one of five Wests Tigers players appearing on Wednesday (11:00am-12:00pm) at the NRL Fan Fest at Martin Place.

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