The Rugby Football League (RFL) has expressed disappointment as Samoa Rugby League declined an invitation to participate in a three-match series in England in 2024. It was considered that momentum in Pacific test matches had been consolidated on the back of England's dominant 3-0 series victory against a visiting Tonga side over the past fortnight.
Samoa, reportedly torn between the England tour and re-entering the highly successful Pacific Shield, has made a clear choice under new management. Opting for the Pacific Shield competition, Samoa Rugby League signals a strategic shift in their international rugby priorities.
RFL Chair and International Rugby League (IRL) board member, Simon Johnson, voiced his disappointment on rugby-league.com, stating, "Samoa's decision is especially disappointing, coming just days after the conclusion of Tonga's history-making visit to these shores this autumn, but we can't afford to dwell on it. They have made their decision."
Johnson emphasised the commitment to delivering meaningful international rugby in 2024, despite Samoa's absence. With England's Men and Women scheduled to tour Australia in 2025, and agreements in place for New Zealand and Australia to visit England in consecutive years after the 2026 World Cup, the focus shifts towards ensuring a robust international rugby calendar for fans and players alike.
"We now owe it to Shaun Wane and the players, and to England supporters, to deliver meaningful international Rugby League in 2024, and we are working with RL Commercial and the IRL to make that happen," Johnson affirmed.
Further announcements are expected as positive developments unfold, emphasising the RFL's commitment to maintaining the excitement and competitiveness of international rugby league.