Pacific Championships rugby league Tests launched by Albanese

Mal Meninga says the end-of-season Pacific Championships have the potential to make international rugby league rival State of Origin in support and fanfare.

Earlier this month the International Rugby League Commission endorsed a five-year plan to grow international rugby league. Critical to that strategy was to create the Pacific Championships.

On Wednesday, the NRL announced in Brisbane a two-year agreement with the Australian Government to contest the tournament which will encompass men and women playing from seven Pacific nations.

The championships will include six international men's teams and seven women's teams and a valuable opportunity to grow pathways and nurture talent.

In 2023 the tournament will include two matches in Australia, two in New Zealand and four in PNG in October and November.

The Pacific Cup will include Australia, Samoa and New Zealand and a final, and The Pacific Bowl, also for men, will feature Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Cook Islands, and then a final.

Kangaroos coach Meninga said the defined program would allow coaches from all nations to "do a lot to develop our teams over the next few years and be very competitive for the next Rugby League World Cup in 2026".

"It allows the players to pick who they want to play for and progress the international game," Meninga said.

"I dare say if we keep going in the international (space), with players putting on their ancestral colours, that we will rival State of Origin down the track internationally".

Australian Rugby League commissioner Kate Jones said the Australian Government and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese were integral to the creation of the championships.

"Australia is committing $7 million over the next two years to support these championships in partnership with the NRL," Mr Albanese said.

"People form bonds based on shared experiences and Australia and our Pacific island neighbours have long had a passion for rugby league and sport in general.

"So many NRL stars have Pacific heritage. Of the Penrith Panthers starting 13 in the grand final last year nine had Pacific heritage.

"At the international level Pacific nations are making their mark with Samoa making the World Cup final last year and PNG making it to the women's semi-final in the tournament last year.

"We want more Pacific players -- both men and women -- to come through the ranks of the NRL."

Mr Albanese said he was pleased PNG would co-host the tournament this year with Australia and New Zealand, with Fiji getting their turn in 2024.

The Prime Minister reiterated his desire for PNG and Pasifika to have a side in an expanded NRL competition in future.

Men and women will receive the same fee for playing matches in the Pacific Championships tournament.


October 14-15:

* Australia vs. Samoa (men). Australia vs. New Zealand (women) - Townsville.

* PNG vs. Cook Islands (men). Samoa vs. Fiji (women) - Port Moresby.

October 21-22:

* New Zealand vs. Samoa (men). New Zealand vs. Tonga (women) - Auckland.

* Fiji vs. Cook Islands (men). PNG vs. Cook Islands (women) - Port Moresby.

October 28-29:

* Australia vs. New Zealand (men and women) - Melbourne.

* PNG vs. Fiji (women) - Port Moresby.

November 4:

* Pacific Cup final (men) - Hamilton.

November 5:

* Pacific Bowl final (men) - Port Moresby.