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St Helens happy for Kristian Woolf to coach Tonga in autumn tests

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 20: Head Coach Kristian Woolf of Tonga looks on after the International Test match between Tonga and Australia at Mount Smart Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Image: Kristian Woolf's departure sparked a revolt among Tonga's leading players

St Helens say they will not stand in the way of Kristian Woolf taking charge of Tonga for their autumn internationals if he is reinstated as coach.

Woolf is due to take up a two-year contract with the Super League leaders on November 1 as the successor to Justin Holbrook, who is leaving the club at the end of the season to join Gold Coast Titans.

However, Saints chief executive Mike Rush says he would be comfortable with Woolf delaying his arrival if he wants to take charge of the Tongans for their Tests against Great Britain in Hamilton on October 26 and Australia in Auckland a week later.

Woolf, who guided the Pacific Nation to the semi-finals of the 2017 World Cup, was sacked by the Tonga Rugby League earlier this month and replaced by former Wigan and New Zealand coach Frank Endacott.

However, Woolf's departure sparked a revolt by Tonga's leading players and Tonga Prime Minister Semisi Sika has intervened by asking the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) to recognise a new governing body in the island kingdom, claiming the current board has "lost the trust and support of its members".

The move follows a trip to Tonga last week by RLIF chief executive Nigel Wood, the former Rugby Football League chief executive, to mediate in the row.

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Woolf is thought to be willing to again take charge of the Tonga team he built into an international powerhouse if the players want him to return and Endacott has privately indicated he would be willing to step aside.

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