Bring on a Kangaroo tour of the Pacific Islands

Riley Pettigrew Roar Guru

By , Riley Pettigrew is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    The Baskerville Shield has already been pencilled in for 2018 but the international calendar remains rather blank for tier one and two nations, opening up the possibility for some exciting fixtures.

    New Zealand and England won’t be coming up against the Australians in 2018 but that doesn’t mean we should take a year off. Why don’t we embrace the Pacific Islands and play alongside an expanded five-team Pacific Series?

    In the last couple of years, the Pacific nations have shown their class in the annual Pacific Tests, highlighting the rivalry between the Islands and the depth of talent in the rugby league world. Such is the quality that in 2014 Samoa gave New Zealand a big fright, nearly toppling the Kiwis in Whangarei.

    The rugby league world is set to be treated to even more quality fixtures featuring the Pacific nations at this year’s World Cup, and the Kangaroos should be looking to get involved.

    Australia have shown a massive commitment to helping to grow the game in the Pacific Islands by taking part in a tri-series alongside Fiji and Papua New Guinea in Suva, to be played over 120 minutes in preparation for the Rugby League World Cup.

    They have every opportunity to embrace this further by playing Pacific opposition alongside a five-team Pacific series featuring the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga.

    The Kangaroos should start off their 2018 campaign in New Zealand, taking on the Kiwis in the annual Trans-Tasman Tests before the All Golds set off for the Baskerville Shield.

    Following this, the Australians can have a week off to recoup while round one of the Pacific Cup kicks off with matches being played across the Pacific Islands at venues such as Apia Park (Apia), Lloyd Robson Oval (Port Moresby), Kalabond Oval (Kokopo), National Stadium (Suva) and Teufaiva Sport Stadium (Nuku’alofa).

    This will give the people of the Pacific region the opportunity to see their rugby league heroes on home turf and bring immense pride to the players participating.

    Allow Australia to host matches against Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga in Australian cities such as Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle while taking on Fiji in Suva. The upcoming warm-up match proves the facilities in Suva are of a high enough standard to host the world No.1 nation.

    Players aren’t going to protest and turn down the opportunity to represent their country on a global stage because of ‘player burnout’ as is often feared. Why take a year off when we can feature in an exciting series and help foster the game in the Pacific Islands.

    The Kangaroos are the means to promote rugby league throughout our region of influence. The green and gold is a brand which is easily identifiable and can help to grow the greatest game of all.

    While a battle between the Pacific Islands takes place in the Southern hemisphere, European nations not competing in the Emerging Nations World Championship must embrace the opportunity to Test themselves against each other.

    Why don’t France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales take part in a Test series while Italy, Serbia, Spain and Russia lock horns?

    Build it and they will come.

    Rugby league is not going to prosper if we continue to sit idle. We have a duty to spread our game around the world and national teams must be granted every possible opportunity to showcase themselves on a global stage.

    Here is a proposed schedule.

    Week 1
    New Zealand versus Australia (AMI Stadium, Christchurch)
    Week 2
    England versus France (DW Stadium, Wigan)
    Samoa versus Tonga (Apia Park, Apia)
    Papua New Guinea versus Fiji (Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby)
    Week 3
    Australia versus Samoa (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
    Fiji versus Tonga (ANZ National Stadium, Suva)
    Papua New Guinea versus Cook Islands (Kalabond Oval, Kokopo)
    France versus New Zealand (Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan)
    Wales versus England (Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff)
    Ireland versus Italy (Carlisle Grounds, Bray)
    Scotland versus Serbia (Derwent Park, Workington)
    Week 4
    Australia versus Tonga (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)
    Fiji versus Cook Islands (ANZ National Stadium, Suva)
    Papua New Guinea versus Samoa (Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby)
    England versus New Zealand (Ricoh Arena, Coventry)
    Ireland versus Scotland, France versus Wales, Italy versus Spain, Serbia versus Russia
    Week 5
    Australia versus Papua New Guinea (GIO Stadium, Canberra)
    Samoa versus Fiji (Apia Park, Apia)
    Tonga versus Cook Islands (Teufaiva Sport Stadium, Nuku’alofa)
    England versus New Zealand (Old Trafford, Manchester)
    Wales versus Ireland, France versus Scotland, Italy versus Serbia, Spain versus Russia
    Week 6
    Fiji versus Australia (ANZ National Stadium, Suva)
    Tonga versus Papua New Guinea (Teufaiva Sport Stadium, Nuku’alofa)
    Samoa versus Cook Islands (Apia Park, Apia)
    England versus New Zealand (London Stadium, London)
    Scotland versus Wales, France versus Ireland, Spain versus Serbia, Italy versus Russia

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