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Cook Islands Rugby League welcomes return of international matches

Friday 29 April 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Cook Islands Rugby League welcomes return of international matches
Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles defenders try to stop Tupapa Panthers’ Eric Newbigging in March. PHOTO: RASHNEEL KUMAR/22022009

International rugby league is set to return, with the Cook Islands to play Samoa as part of a Pacific double-header.

The two nations will play on June 25 at Cambelltown stadium in New South Wales in Australia, with their match to be followed by Fiji versus Papa New Guinea.

Australian Rugby League (ARL) chairman Peter V'landys said the round would celebrate the rebirth of the international game following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Commission has made it clear that growing international rugby league would be a priority and we are delivering on that promise,” V’landys said.

“This representative round will provide a return to the national pride and excitement that international tests produce.”

On June 25 in Auckland, New Zealand will play Tonga.

V'landys said the Pacific test matches would be vital for those sides, as they all prepare for the world cup later this year.

“The passion of Pacific Nations and their fans is something unique to rugby league,” he said.

“This is part of a long-term plan to grow the international game in conjunction with International Rugby League and member countries. We’ve seen the growth and success of Tonga in recent years and we want to capitalize on the potential depth of our test playing nations.”

Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said he was pleased about the announcement.

“We are playing Samoa, so this will be a good measure of where we are internationally and a good prep leading up to the World Cup in October,” Carlson said.

“We are pleased to see the support from the Australia rugby league and the NRL towards growing the international game. The ARL and the International Rugby League Federation undoubtedly see the Pacific teams as critical to developing the game internationally. “

Carlson said there was no advantage to any team going into the Pacific Test because no one has played any international game since the 2020 lockdown.

“Samoa has been the powerhouse for rugby league among Pacific Nations, so there is no doubt there will be plenty of fire seeing these two teams in action,” he said.

IRLF chairman Troy Grant said the international fixtures will be important as the sides prepare for the World Cup.

“There has been very little opportunity to play international matches for more than two years, and we know how passionate the players the players from Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papa New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga are about representing their nations,” Grant said.

As well as the Pacific tests, ARL also announced the women’s State of Origin would take place in Canberra on June 24, and the second men’s State of Origin match in Perth on June 26.