According to reports in New Zealand, plans are afoot for New Zealand to feature in a new international competition which, over a period of two to four years, they will play regular tests against the likes of Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea – something which many have been calling for following the sterling performances of the aforementioned nations with the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) keen to harness the potential and passion of these countries.
A standalone State of Origin weekend from next year coupled with the axing of the annual ANZAC test between Australia and the Kiwis from the fixture list has seen a gap open up for the New Zealanders to play other nations and, with the Pacific Islanders already having played matches against each other over the ANZAC test weekend over the last few years, a natural development seems to be including the All Blacks in that.
Now, RLIF CEO David Collier is angling for the new tournament to be set up in order to add more meaning and importance to both the mid-season and off season matches, stating that “we’ve been discussing how to help, support and enhance an Asia/Pacific championship.” He goes on to further outline how, if it was ensured that each team would play each other in a round robin format over the course of two to three years, it would be straightforward to provide an official tournament as a base for the nations who have wowed with such exhilaration this winter to do so again.
While Collier is keen, his New Zealand Rugby League counterpart Alex Hayton suggested that the organisation isn’t totally sold on the idea, suggesting that tying the one off matches together over a two to four year period may be tricky. He did go on to say that this RLWC has “shown to broadcaster that these are hugely attractive fixtures to go on TV,” a view which is widely shared.
It is vital for the development of the sport in the tier two nations that they get the platform to develop on the world stage and, if they do so, there may be even more tight and close games in future editions of the world cups which, after all, is what all fans want to see.