2022-06-24 13:33:00

Rugby League fans will be treated to a sneak preview of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) this weekend, with three intriguing Pacific nations clashes scheduled across a Super Saturday of international matches on Fox.

Six countries will be looking to build some confidence and momentum ahead of the 2021 RLWC in England, which was postponed till later this year as a result of the Covid pandemic, when they take the field for their warm-up tests.

We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about this weekend’s international matches.

Stream Rugby League Internationals LIVE on Kayo this Saturday 25th June. NZ vs Tonga Women 1:30PM | NZ vs Tonga 3:20PM | Samoa vs Cook Islands 5:40PM | PNG vs Fiji 7:50PM AEST. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >

MATCH PREVIEWS

New Zealand vs Tonga

Super Saturday kicks off with a barn burner as the top-ranked team in Men’s International Rugby League (IRL), the New Zealand Kiwis, face-off against the third-ranked Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

There are sure to be fireworks when these two Pacific Island powerhouses clash in preparation for the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC), which is set to commence in England later this year.

Both teams are stacked with NRL talent and are expected to produce a high-quality display in front of NZ Rugby League fans who have been starved of a chance to see the game live over the couple of years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On paper, the Kiwis appear to have a slight edge in both talent and class, headlined by Melbourne Storm quintet Jahrome Hughes, Brandon Smith, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and the Bromwich brothers (Jesse and Kenny).

However, Tonga – featuring superstar talents like Jason Taumalolo, Kotoni Staggs, Haumole Olaka’uatu Olakau’atu and Moeaki Fotuaika – are no easybeats as evidenced by victories over Great Britain and Australia in their last two outings as well as a quarter-final victory over NZ in the last RLWC.

Andrew Fifita of Tonga. Picture: Phil Walter
Andrew Fifita of Tonga. Picture: Phil WalterSource: Getty Images

Samoa v Cook Islands

The second warm-up test match sees eighth-ranked Samoa taking on Rugby League minnow Cook Islands at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney, in what is viewed by many as the most lopsided game of the Super Saturday triple header.

With names such as Charlie Staines, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Anthony Milford, Martin Taupau and Jaydn Su’A it’s easy to see why Samao will start heavy favourites against a Cook Islands side which contains only six NRL-listed players.

However, despite Samoa boasting a squad brimming with NRL quality in comparison to their less-fancied opponents, this game may be a lot closer than most experts are predicting, with recent history between these two favouring the underdog Cook Islands team.

Papua New Guinea v Fiji

The final international clash this weekend pits fourth-ranked Papua New Guinea against fifth-ranked Fiji in the second back-to-back game at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney, in what shapes an intriguing battle.

Fiji hold the edge in quality, with talent on the park such as Viliame Kikau, Maika Sivo, Semi Valemei, Tui Kamikamica and Kevin Naiqama.

PNG may have less household names across the board, but they still possess their fair share of star power with names like Alex Johnston, David Mead, Justin Olam and Lachlan Lam in their ranks, and will be hoping to upset punters and improve their 8-4 overall record against Fiji.

WHEN AND WHERE (AEST)

New Zealand vs Tonga: Saturday, June 25 at Mt Smart Stadium (3.20pm)

Samoa v Cook Islands: Saturday, June 25 at Campbelltown Sports Stadium (5.40pm)

Papua New Guinea v Fiji: Saturday, June 25 at Campbelltown Sports Stadium (7.50pm)

Time for the NRL to adopt relegation | 03:35

WEATHER FORECAST

Auckland: While the temperature is expected to be a moderate 14 degrees Celsius come kick-off for the game across the ditch, the rest of the forecast paints a pretty bleak picture with MetService predicting that thunderstorms and hail may hit in the afternoon.

Sydney: The forecast for Sydney is clear skies with the temperature expected to be around 16 degrees Celsius at kick-off time of the Somoa v Cook Islands game, with it predicted to drop to around 13 degrees Celsius by the time Papua New Guinea v Fiji get underway before continuing to cool off throughout the night. The Bureau of Meteorology are anticipating light winds throughout the day which should create ideal conditions for goal kickers.

TEAMS FOR INTERNATIONAL MATCHES

New Zealand: 1. Joseph Manu (Roosters) 2. Ronaldo Mulitalo (Sharks) 3. Marata Niukore (Eels) 4. Peta Hiku (Cowboys) 5. Jordan Rapana (Raiders) 6. Dylan Brown (Eels) 7. Jahrome Hughes (Storm) 8. Jesse Bromwich (C) (Storm) 9. Brandon Smith (Storm) 10. James Fisher-Harris (Panthers) 11. Isaiah Papali’I (Eels) 12. Kenneath Bromwich (Storm) 13. Joseph Tapine (Raiders) 14. Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles) 15. Moses Leota (Panthers) 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm) 17. Briton Nikora (Sharks) 18. Jordan Riki* (Broncos) 19. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak* (Warriors) 20. Te Maire Martin* (Broncos)

Coach: Michael Maguire

Tonga: 1. Tolutau Koula (Sea Eagles) 2. Christian Tuipulotu (Sea Eagles) 3. Will Penisini (Eels) 4. Moses Suli (Dragons) 5. Sione Katoa (Sharks) 6. Kotoni Staggs (Broncos) 7. Talatau Amone (Dragons) 8. Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors) 9. Siliva Havilli (Rabbitohs) 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho (C) (Roosters) 11. Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters) 12. Keaon Koloamatangi (Rabbitohs) 13. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) 14. Soni Luke (Panthers) 15. Haumole Olaka’uatu Olakau’atu (Sea Eagles) 16. Tevita Tatola (Rabbitohs) 17. Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans) 18. Joe Ofahengaue* (Tigers) 19. Eliesa Katoa* (Warriors) 20. Isaiya Katoa* (Panthers)

Coach: Kristian Woolf (Dean Young will step in as caretaker coach for this game due to Woolf’s unavailability because of English Super League duties with St Helens)

Kieran Foran of the Sea Eagles. Picture: Cameron SpencerSource: Getty Images

Samoa: 1. Charlie Staines (Panthers) 2. Taylan May (Panthers) 3. Izack Tago (Panthers) 4. Jaxson Paulo (Rabbitohs) 5. David Nofoaluma (Tigers) 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita (Warriors) 7. Anthony Milford (C) (Knights) 8. Martin Taupau (Sea Eagles) 9. Jazz Tevaga (Warriors) 10. Francis Molo (Dragons) 11. Josh Schuster (Sea Eagles) 12. Jaydn Su’A (Dragons) 13. Josh Aloiai (Sea Eagles) 14. Fa’amanu Brown (Tigers) 15. Keenan Palasia (Broncos) 16. Spencer Leniu (Panthers) 17. Bunty Afoa – (Warriors) 18. Mathew Feagai* (Dragons) 19. Ronald Volkman* (Warriors) 20. Toafofoa Sipley* (Sea Eagles)

Coach: Matt Parish

Cook Islands: 1. Kayal Iro 2. Steven Marsters 3. Anthony Gelling 4. Reubenn Rennie 5. Malachi Morgan 6. Esan Marsters (Co-c) (Titans) 7. Reece Joyce 8. Vincent Rennie 9. Aaron Teroi 10. Tinirau Arona 11. Brendan Piakura (Broncos) 12. Pride Petterson-Robati (Co-c) (Warriors) 13. Xavier Willison (Broncos) 14. Geoff Daniela 15. Moses Noovao-McGreal 16. Davvy Moale (Rabbitohs) 17. Makahesi Makatoa (Eels) 18. Reuben Porter* 19. Brody Tamarua* 20. Andre Iro* 21. Lucky Pokipoki*

Coach: Tony Iro

Papua New Guinea: 1. Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs) 2. Robert Derby 3. David Mead (C) (Broncos) 4. Justin Olam (Storm) 5. Terry Wapi 6. Kyle Laybutt 7. Lachlan Lam (Roosters) 8. Epel Kapinias 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Sylvester Namo 11. Dan Russell 12. Nixon Putt 13. Jacob Alick (Titans) 14. Liam Horne 15. Emmanuel Waine 16. McKenzie Yei 17. Dilbert Issac 18. Junior Rop* 19. Sherwin Tanabi* 20. Solo Wane*

Coach: Stanley Tepend

Fiji: 1. Sunia Turuva (Panthers) 2. Mikaele Ravalawa (Dragons) 3. Semi Valemei (Raiders) 4. Waqa Blake (Eels) 5. Maika Sivo (Eels) 6. Kevin Naiqama (C) (Roosters) 7. Nautu’a Masima 8. Joseph Ratuvakacerivalu 9. Penioni Tagituimua (Bulldogs) 10. Tui Kamikamica (Storm) 11. Viliame Kikau (Panthers) 12. Taniela Sadrugu (Cowboys) 13. Taane Milne (Rabbitohs) 14. Isaac Lumelume (Bulldogs) 15. Pio Seci 16. Lamar Manuel-Liolevave 17. Kaylen Miller 18. Ralulu Nasoki* 19. Waqasaqa Qiolevu* 20. Mesake Kurukitoga* (Panthers)

Coach: Joe Dakuitoga

*Denotes selected as a reserve

Parramatta Eels player Maika Sivo. Picture: Jonathan NgSource: News Corp Australia

MATCH OFFICIALS

New Zealand vs Tonga: Grant Atkins (Referee), Liam Kennedy and Paki Parkinson (Touch Judges), Chris Butler (Bunker Official)

Samoa v Cook Islands: Adam Gee (Referee), Darian Furner and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski (Touch Judges), Chris Butler (Bunker Official)

Papua New Guinea v Fiji: Todd Smith (Referee), Michael Wise and Chris Sutton (Touch Judges), Matt Noyen (Bunker Official)

TALE OF THE TAPE

New Zealand vs Tonga

New Zealand have won five of the six previous meetings with Tonga, however, Tonga’s only victory over the Kiwis came in the group stage of the last Rugby League World Cup in 2017.

Samoa v Cook Islands

Samoa have won five of the seven previous meetings with the Cook Islands, however, the Cook Islands have won two out of the last three matches.

Papua New Guinea v Fiji

PNG have won eight of the previous 12 meetings with Fiji, however, Fiji have won three of the last five games including a 22-20 victory in their most recent clash in 2019.

WHAT THEY SAID

NZ coach Michael Maguire to Newshub on staying connected with his players through Covid: “Everywhere I go, I’m talking to players about what they’re building, and the thought of playing in a World Cup and working very hard to be successful for their country,” Maguire said. “It’s very special.”

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf on Wayne Bennett joining his coaching staff: “My commitment to St Helens and the inability of the representative and international weeks to line up in the two hemispheres means it is not possible to be in New Zealand for a week during the Super League season,” said Woolf. “But we have been able to put together an amazing coaching staff with Dean [Dean Young], Wayne and Sika [Sika Manu]. “No one has had more success in coaching rugby league than Wayne Bennett – having him there will be a great experience for both the players and the staff.”

Anthony Milford of the Knights. Picture: Mark NolanSource: Getty Images

Samoa co-captain Anthony Milford to ABC on what this weekend’s game means to his team: “You just have to see what the Tongans have done for their team to see what footy means in the Pacific. We want to do the jersey proud, Samoa is a proud nation and we want to play well for them,” said halfback Anthony Milford. “It’s a special week. I’m always honoured to put the jersey on and I’m always grateful for the opportunity given to me by (coach) Matty Parish and the coaching staff. I can’t wait to represent my people and my family.”

Cook Islands co-captain Esan Marsters to NRL.com on having the opportunity to play with his cousin Steven for the first time: “This means a lot to us,” Esan said. “I have got a lot of family back home who really drove into us about being Cook Islander. “Having a strong Cook Islands background it is always awesome to come into camp because there are boys I have played with before, and you get to experience a new bunch of boys coming in.”

PNG captain David Mead to NRL.com on announcing his decision to retire from international football after this weekend: “I just thought it would be a good opportunity for a young 19 or 20-year-old player to get a chance to showcase their talent so I think it is better for them to put on that jersey and get a good career out of it,” Mead said. “That opportunity was given to me at that age, as well, so I think it would be pretty good to do that for them as well. “I spoke to several family members a couple of months ago and I feel that now is the right time to say it because PNG is where it all started for me, so I wanted to say something this week while the camp was on.”

Fiji vice-captain Viliame Kikau to the Western Weekender on his new leadership position: “That’s one of the things I’ve been trying to learn the last couple of years, is taking a leadership role around here,” Kikau said. “I had a tap on the shoulder from Ivan and he always tells me, ‘you’ve got to be a leader now, you’ve got to lead the team, you’ve got to talk more’, so that’s what I’ve been doing. “I’ll never say ‘no’ to playing for my country and if I get that honour of vice-captain, that would be massive for me and my family and everyone back home.”

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Source by [graycupnews.com]

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