Saints sign Tonga star Hopoate

ST HELENS have signed Tonga international and New South Wales back Will Hopoate on a two-year deal with a further twelve-months option, to start next season, reuniting the 29-year-old with his national-team coach Kristian Woolf.

The Sydney-born centre, who can also play fullback, is currently at Canterbury Bulldogs, where he has played 120 first-grade games, scoring 24 tries.

He previously played for Manly Sea Eagles and Parramatta Eels and in total, has 180 NRL appearances and 45 tries to his credit.

Confirmation of his signing follows the news that Fiji international centre Kevin Naiqama is to return to Australia at the end of this season.

Captain of the Tonga side who pushed England hard before going down 20-18 in the 2017 World Cup semi-finals, Hopoate has made eleven international appearances in all and played in five Origin matches.

“I am very happy and excited to be making the move to St Helens and to play for such a proud and historic club,” he said. “I have never been to the UK before and I am excited to be a part of it all.

“I had the option to sign for clubs in the NRL, but I have always wanted to play in Super League and a strong club like St Helens meant I just couldn’t turn the chance down.

“I have been coached by ‘Woolfie’ before and that was a big reason why I made the decision. I know him as a person and as a coach and his values and standards that he sets is something I want to buy into.

“The recent success Saints have had and the history of the club over the years shows it is big and powerful and I am just grateful that they showed in interest in me.”

Woolf said: “Will is a guy I know extremely well. He has played for Tonga since 2016 and captained them too, which shows what a strong character he is.

“If I go back to 2019, when Tonga played against Great Britain and Australia, he was one of our best players against two top-quality teams on the world stage, which gives you an idea of the quality we are getting.

“He has the ability to play in the centres, but he has versatility too. He has made a name for himself at fullback and so will be a great support to Jack Welsby. He has also played at six for Tonga as well, so that versatility and quality is going to be invaluable for us.

“He is not just a good player, but is a great bloke and will fit into the community and club really well.”