International rugby league is due to have a change with Australia, New Zealand and Tonga all about to play in a first tri-nation series which would see the last placed country relegated and play other Pacific nations.
The proposal will be be presented by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) at a conference in Auckland on Friday, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The RLIF’s plans include:
- Australia, New Zealand and Tonga to be in one conference.
- Samoa, PNG and Fiji in another conference.
- A Test between New Zealand and Tonga while State of Origin is on.
- A mid year Test between Samoa PNG or Fiji.
- Australia to face New Zealand and Tonga at the end of next year.
- Samoa, Fiji and PNG to have played against each other before 2020.
- The winner will be decided on a round robin points system.
- The bottom placed team in Australia’s group will be dropped down whilst the team who comes first in Samoa’s group will be promoted the next time these tournaments are held.
Representatives from all six nations will consider the proposal which could see Australia or New Zealand relegated as Tonga continues to get stronger and are on the verge of becoming an international powerhouse.
RLIF chief executive Nigel Wood states that this is the first element of a five-year international calendar.
“Most people would agree international rugby league is capable of doing more,” Wood said.
“Right now represents a terrific opportunity to work with all the stakeholders in the game. What today is about is the Pacific Island nations reviewing the potential “Oceania Cup” to see if that meets their needs.
“There is a lot of consultation which still needs to happen. We know we have to go back and speak to clubs.
“It’s about taking advantage of an opportunity most people should happen in rugby league and deliver an international calendar which is compelling.
“The game is ready to talk about what international rugby league could look like. This is the first part of the consultation process.”
Great Britain’s international team are set to tour New Zealand next year but will not play the Kangaroos.
Australia will play Tonga for the first time on Saturday as the Kiwi’s and Tonga haven’t played since last year’s unbelievable World Cup where Tonga shocked the world and defeated the Kiwi’s in the group stage.
“International rugby league is one of the greatest opportunities the sport has,” Wood said.
“It is underdeveloped and capable of a lot more. When we showcase it, people are full of admiration.
“There is plenty of scope for improvement.”
The matches played in New Zealand will help aid the governing body who are in a dangerous financial state. Last Saturday’s match against Australia had 10,000 people while Saturday’s game is a sellout.
“They have had a difficult two years,” Wood said.
“They are emerging out of that. Their leadership is good and I have a lot of confidence under the leadership of Greg Peters (new chief executive) will go from strength to strength. Of all of the big nations New Zealand does not have a domestic competition so they need international rugby league more than anybody.”