The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) has today confirmed that the inaugural RLIF Oceania Cup and the Great Britain Rugby League Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have both been approved for 2019. A series of women’s games will also run alongside these games.
The RLIF Oceania Cup is an innovative new tournament which will establish a regular, meaningful Pacific programme of fixtures which builds upon the success of recent meetings. It will kick off with a series of matches in the mid-season international window in June and will conclude in October and November.
The tournament will be played in two pools with the winner of Pool A – comprising New Zealand, Australia and Tonga – lifting the RLIF Oceania Cup, and the winner of Pool B – Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea – lifting the RLIF Oceania Shield. The winner of Pool B will be promoted to Pool A in 2020.
RLIF Chief Executive Officer, Nigel Wood has welcomed both developments saying:
“International competition represents a wonderful opportunity for rugby league and this programme is both exciting and ground-breaking. It is uplifting that so much meaningful international competition is taking place around the globe in 2019 at all levels and it is also gratifying to see Great Britain Rugby League Lions re-appear on the calendar, surely one of our sports most iconic brands.
“We now have the framework of a full and global calendar in place. The RLIF is supporting the Middle East Africa Championships, Americas Championship, European Championships at three levels, the Oceania Cup at two levels and of course the World Cup, for which qualification will be concluded this year and, while of course we also have the first RLIF Downers 9’s World Cup to look forward in October, in Sydney.
“This calendar can now roll forward, develop and flourish.
“It has taken an immense amount of work to deliver this schedule and I would like to thank all RLIF colleagues and partners for the effort made to bring this programme to fruition. In particular, we have received great support from the governments of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and we look forward to working with them and other sponsors and partners. It is a great platform for the international game in the Asia Pacific Region.”
Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation Chairman, Tagaloa Faafouina Su’a said:
“There is a great passion for rugby league amongst our Pacific nations and the creation of the RLIF Oceania Cup is the missing piece of the jig-saw puzzle for us. It provides us with regular competition and the opportunity to play with and against all of our neighbours and to test ourselves against them.
“I would like to thank the RLIF Board and executive for the hard work and diligence that has gone into securing this exciting programme for 2019 which will grow into a great ongoing playing calendar for us all.”
Greg Peters, the New Zealand Rugby League CEO, said:
“It’s exciting to see all the hard work behind the scenes come to fruition with more international rugby league content locked in for New Zealand,
“Our rugby league community in New Zealand has been hoping to see more international and Kiwis fixtures come to our backyard for a while now so I’m pleased we’re able to deliver on this.
“We’ve always said that international rugby league is the pinnacle of the sport, and it’s vital to have meaningful fixtures for the Kiwis and our Pacific neighbours to play in front of league fans, family and friends.”
Ralph Rimmer, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “The return of the famous Great Britain jersey is something people have been talking about for a long time – so this is an exciting announcement for us.
“It’s 12 years since Great Britain last played a Test, and 13 since they last travelled to the southern hemisphere, for the Tri-Nations series of 2006.
“It’s great for the game to have it back, as part of the schedule drawn up by the RLIF also including the Oceania Cup. We’ll be committed to respecting and honouring that tradition as we build up to the tour through 2019.”
The current international fixtures for 2019 are as follows.
RLIF Oceania Cup – Pool A: New Zealand v Tonga
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
RLIF Oceania Cup – Pool B: Samoa v Papua New Guinea
International Match: Fiji v Cook Islands
RLIF Oceania Cup – Pool A: Australia v New Zealand
Women’s International: Australia Jillaroos v New Zealand Ferns
Tour Match: GB RL Lions v Tonga Hamilton
Tour Match: GB RL Lions v New Zealand Eden Park, Auckland
RLIF Oceania Cup – Pool B: Samoa v Fiji Eden Park, Auckland
RLIF Oceania Cup – Pool A: Australia v Tonga
Eden Park, Auckland
Tour Match: New Zealand v GB RL Lions Christchurch
RLIF Oceania Cup – Pool B: Papua New Guinea
Tour Match: Papua New Guinea v GB RL Lions
Women’s International: PNG Orchids v Pacific All Stars