Friday 16 December 2011 | Published in Regional
The Cook Islands tour of the United Kingdom planned for the lead-up to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup remains in limbo but not off the table.
Cook Islands Rugby League (CIRL) remains in discussions with its English, Welsh and French counterparts to arrange a 2012 tour that would see the Cook Islands international squad travel to the UK.
The organisation was planning to use funds raised through the Kiwis-Kukis Rarotonga test match scheduled for October to help pay for the planned UK tour.
But those plans were scuttled when the New Zealand team backed out of the match, citing player shortages as the reason it could not bring a team together to face the Kukis.
The proposed UK tour would act as an important warm-up for the Kuki squad ahead of the following years World Cup, which will be held in England, France, Ireland and Wales.
But apart from helping the side gain some international experience on the pitch, the tour would also go some ways to ensure the team had access to its players.
The proposed 2012 UK tour will be crucial for the Cook Islands in locking in its NRL and English Super League professional players to play for the Cook Islands in the World Cup.
Under the international rugby league rules, if a player lines up for the Cook Islands in the 2012 tour, he would not be able to change teams until 2014 at the earliest.
This effectively means that players could not line up for other countries such as Australia or New Zealand in the 2013 World Cup.
CIRL international director Kevin Iro remains in contact with officials in England, Wales and France over the proposed tour.
He said the Cook Islands badly needed some international games to prepare for the 2013 World Cup and the UK tour would provide the ideal preparation for the competition.
Cook Islands will play England, Wales and possibly France yet to be confirmed and this will certainly be a good prep for the Cooks leading up to the World Cup, Iro said.
CIRL president Charles Carlson said now that the Cook Islands had qualified for the World Cup, it wanted to show that it was one of the best teams in the Pacific and in the world.
Our goal has always been to qualify for the World Cup but we need to go further than now that we qualified, Carlson said.
We want to make sure that we give it our very best shot and be able to compete at the highest possible level as required for winning.
CIRL is still waiting on a response form the NZRL in regards to compensation for the cancellation of the NZ Kiwi tour to the Cook Islands in October.
The New Zealand Rugby League board of directors will further discuss the Cook Islands compensation claims when it next meets in January.