World Cup final rematches headline end of year Pacific Championships

Photo: NRL

The Kangaroos will host Toa Samoa and the Jillaroos will play the Kiwi Ferns in re-matches of last year’s World Cup finals to kick off a new Pacific Championships involving men’s and women’s teams from seven nations.

The Australian Rugby League Commission announced details of the Pacific Championships to be played in 2023 and 2024, with Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea hosting matches at the end of this season.

The opening round double-header at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium on October 14 will be the first time the Kangaroos and Jillaroos have played in Australia since the 2017 World Cup finals at Suncorp Stadium.

Australia and New Zealand men’s and women’s teams will also play a double-header at Melbourne’s AAMI Park two weeks later.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, were in attendance at the launch of the Pacific Championships in Brisbane as the ARLC also announced a partnership with the Australian Government to promote and develop rugby league in the Pacific through the Championships.

Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa and Papua New Guinea will take part in the 2023 men’s Pacific Championships, while Tonga travel to England for an historic three Test series.

It is envisaged that Tonga will play in the 2024 Pacific Championships, possibly with another nation travelling to Europe, before England men’s and women’s teams come to Australia in 2025 for a revival of the Ashes.

“It’s a goosebump moment when you see what it means to both fans and players when Test matches are played,” said NRL CEO Andrew Abdo.

The Pacific Championships will be staged in 2023 and 2024, after the NRL and NRLW Premiership seasons. 

“I have been fortunate enough to go to a number of rugby league Tests where I have been overwhelmed by the passion of the players, the celebration of culture and the celebration of all the diversity that is the different nations that play rugby league in our region.

“Seeing that all come together it’s amazing how sport and rugby league is such a unifying force for us and I believe the passion will grow and the international series will become a really important part of the season.

“It’s important that we are investing in grassroots and pathways now so we are able to have talented players represent potentially a franchise from that region.”

The 2023 Pacific Championships will include two match days in Australia, two in New Zealand and four in Papua New Guinea.

The men’s tournaments will be spread across two pools from 14 October and culminate in finals in Hamilton and Port Moresby on 4-5 November.

Tonga women will join the other six nations in a series of international fixtures that make up the women’s 2023 Pacific Championships when they take on the Kiwi Ferns at Eden Park on October 21, along with the Kiwis and Samoa.

The Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns will meet twice in Townsville on 14 October, as part of a double-header featuring the Kangaroos and Samoa, and in Melbourne on 28 October, alongside the Australian and New Zealand men’s teams in a trans-Tasman double-header.

“The Commission’s focus on growing the international game will combine with an equally strong desire to grow rugby league in the Pacific,” ARLC Commissioner Kate Jones said.

“The 2023 Pacific Championships will showcase the best of international Rugby League in matches across three countries. Importantly, the international matches will be highlighted by both men’s and women’s matches. “The southern hemisphere tournaments will deliver on the broader NRL Pacific Strategy objectives – to create pathways for aspiring athletes, coaches, referees and administrators from the Pacific along with further growing international Rugby League.”