The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) board on Sunday said it had approved major changes to the international calendar, rolling out matches for the next eight years following a meeting of the governing body’s congress in York, England, with the Kiwis confirmed to play Australia and Tonga next year.
Also announced was the plan for a Great Britain team to tour the southern hemisphere – subject to consultation with the major playing leagues and the players’ representatives – for tests against the Kiwis, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
The new international schedule is slated to start in 2019, featuring World Cups in 2021 (England) and 2025 (USA and Canada), as well as a repeat of the Oceania Cup in 2020 and 2022, while there is scope for games and tours between rival nations in other years.
The inaugural Oceania Cup starts next year with plans for two groups – one featuring Australia, New Zealand and Tonga; the other Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea – and New Zealand Rugby League CEO, Greg Peters, confirmed that a number of games would be hosted in New Zealand, although he didn’t specify how many.
“We are delighted to have the support of the RLIF and member nations for a significant calendar of rugby league events in New Zealand,” Peters said in a statement.
“This will be the first time in the history of the sport that this number of international games has been hosted in New Zealand.
“We still have work to do, however, but we are very encouraged by the commitment of all parties to work towards making this a reality.”
On the back of Tonga’s success at last year’s World Cup, Auckland hosted a sold out test between the Pacific Island nation and the Kangaroos last month,
A week earlier, the Kiwis beat Australia 26-24 before a crowd of less than half the size at Mt Smart Stadium
The Kangaroos were too good for Tonga, prevailing 34-16, but the occasion was wonderful as Tongan fans again came out in force to staunchly back their team.
Australia will also host the inaugural Nines World Cup next year and the tournament will feature both men’s and women’s competitions.
The RLIF statement also revealed that Australia were set to tour Great Britain in 2020 but discussions are yet to completed for the proposed Lions tour of the southern hemisphere next year.
New Zealand are touring England this month and play the final match of their three-test series on Sunday (Monday NZ time), with England holding an unassailable 2-0 lead.