The Wally Tangata-coached side kicked off their preparation for the Oceania Rugby Cup tournament, which will be held here in August.
Cook Islands Rugby Union (CIRU) last week released a 48-member training squad of local players from the various club, giving them an opportunity to vie for their place in the national team.
The union also put out an invitation to other interested players willing to try out for a chance to play for the Cook Islands XVs.
Team manager Massey Mateariki said the turnout was quite strong despite some players still committed with their teams for the national rugby league final which will be held this weekend.
“The league final is coming up and as expected, we didn’t have the players from the teams competing this weekend plus a few other players who had big games last weekend,” Mateariki said.
“They must have had some niggling injuries and we expected that. Despite that, we still had a strong turnout.
“There were also some players who were not named in the squad but turned up for the training. This is quite encouraging.”
Initially, the team was expected to start their preparation after the conclusion of the league season.
But Mateariki said they wanted to get the ball running before they get on with the training proper from the coming week.
“There are some players in the squad who do not play rugby league and others whose teams are not in the finals so we decided to start off with them before we have the remaining players in for proper training sessions.”
Cook Islands will play Tahiti in the one-off Test match in the Oceania Cup on August 4 at the stadium.
The winner from this match will play the champion of the Asia regional qualifying tournament between Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea in a two-match series.
The series winner will then compete in the repechage tournament for a place in the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan.
Mateariki said the upcoming tournament was a perfect opportunity for the local players to represent the country at the international level.
“The local players have not had this kind of opportunity for a long time, I think for about 10 years now.
“So this is a turning point for them to put the Cook Islands on world rugby map.”
During the opening training session on Monday, the team management relayed their plans to the players before going through some basic training drills.
Mateariki said they would be testing the players’ fitness when they get the whole squad together, hopefully next week.
Meanwhile Mateariki said the door was still open for overseas players to join the team for the Oceania Cup.
“Overseas-based players who are interested in making the squad can contact me or CIRU, outlining the dates they are available.”
The next training session will be held on Monday at the BCI Stadium, starting at 5pm. - RK
Arorangi – Francis Smith, Sean Smith, Stephen Willis, Turori Matutu; Avatiu –
Walter Tangata, Toru Katuke, Stanley Tobia, Li Ponini, Tepaki Ngaoire, Sirla Pera, Tokerau Raru, Bernard Tararo, Tamanui Nicholas, Aaron Enoka; Ngatangiia – Christian Hosking, James Kora, Peter Marsters, Kora Christian Kora, Mark Tuaati, Daniel Toa; Takuvaine – Travel Tou, Edward Nicholas, John Marsters, Vaike Potoru, Mana Havi, Matamanea Andrew; Titikaveka – Sailosi Nagi, Teariki Matenga, Clerk Ngaau, Longo Leuta, Jeff Magele, Timo Tangirere, Vatu Sika; Tupapa – Ngatamaine Rongo, Tupou Faireka, Rangi Piri, Oki Naea, Jaiman Iroa, Teina Savage, Davey Mato, KC Kora, Tyrone Marurai, Othneil Joseph; Aitutaki – Teu Paerau, Mano Tekopua, Mau George, Teremoana Paerau, Hugh Henry.