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Cook Islands set to play in new World Series

Tuesday 10 October 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in League, Sports


Cook Islands set to play in new World Series
Steven Marsters scores for Cook Islands in their 2022 World Cup defeat of Wales. GETTY IMAGES/23100901

Cook Islands are set to play in the inaugural IRL World Series in 2025 to determine the final men’s berths in the 2026 World Cup to be played in the Southern Hemisphere.

After revamping the World Cup structure to 10-teams, and eight each for the women's and wheelchair tournaments, the IRL announced the establishment of a World Series and further details have now been confirmed.

The World Series concept will be introduced in 2025 to determine the remaining two men’s berths for RLWC2026, alongside the quarter-finalists from last year’s World Cup - Australia, Samoa, New Zealand, England, Lebanon, Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The World Series will be contested by one team from each of the IRL’s four regions, with Cook Islands – as the sole eligible Asia-Pacific nation – to play the winners of the Americas, European and Middle East-Africa (MEA) qualifying tournaments.

The top two teams will qualify for RLWC2026 and after qualifying for the 2000, 2013 and 2022 World Cups the Cook Islands would be considered genuine contenders to win the inaugural World Series.

Cook Islands will prepare for the World Cup qualifying tournament by playing in the Pacific Championships, with the team travelling to Port Moresby to play Papua New Guinea on October 15 and Fiji on October 22.

Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson, who has welcomed the national team’s inclusion in the IRL World Series, said “this helps simplify the qualifying round for the Cook Islands to the next World Cup”.

“This is the goal to make sure we do qualify for the next World Cup 2026. Being part of the Pacific Championship will really help with that preparation,” Carlson said.

“Nearly half the squad will debut at this Pacific Championship so this is the time to start introducing more players into our pool of elite players and hopefully come WC qualifying will give a very large pool to select from. We really struggle to finalise top squad for this first tournament due to injuries and unavailability of players.”

After announcing the new look World Cup structure and international calendar until 2030 at July’s Board meeting in Singapore, the IRL Board met again last week and agreed on further details.

RLWC2026, to be hosted in the Southern Hemisphere, will again feature Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments played side by side before each discipline is afforded its own stand-alone World Cup.

The next Wheelchair World Cup, after 2026, will be staged in 2029 – in between the 2028 Women’s World Cup and the 2030 Men’s World Cup.

A bidding process to host one or more of the 2028 Women’s Rugby League World Cup, the 2029 Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup and the 2030 Men’s Rugby League World Cup 2030 has been confirmed and a public invitation to tender (ITT) process will be launched next week.

The deadline to submit bids for RLWC2026 in the Southern Hemisphere has been deferred until March 31, 2024, at the request of the tenderers.

  • Brad Walter of