Tonga v Samoa Crowd

The brand-new Pacific Championships are set to move into top gear this weekend as part of the International Rugby League’s (IRL) new-look international calendar.

The Pacific Championships will involve men’s and women’s teams from Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands. Tonga’s men’s team opens its first-ever end-of-season three-test tour of England next weekend so they won’t be participating.

Australia, New Zealand and Samoa will play for the Pacific Cup with the Kangaroos ranking as the favorites to win. Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands will play in the Pacific Bowl with the Kumuls the odds-on favorites to clinch.

Games will be hosted by Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea with the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) saying the idea is to promote and develop rugby league in the Pacific.

“Importantly, the international matches will be highlighted by both men’s and women’s matches,” said ARLC Commissioner Kate Jones.

“The southern hemisphere tournaments will deliver on the broader NRL Pacific Strategy objectives to create pathways for aspiring athletes, coaches, referees and administrators from the Pacific along with further growing international rugby league.”

The IRL’s move to reintroduce a fresh iteration of the international calendar, which has been in hiatus in recent years, was largely forced by France’s surprise decision in May to pull out as host of the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.

2023 Pacific Championships draw:
Week One
Australia v Samoa (men) at QCBS, Townsville – Saturday, October 14
Australia v New Zealand (women) at QCBS, Townsville – Saturday, October 14
PNG v Cook Islands (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby – Sunday, October 15
Samoa v Fiji (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby – Sunday, October 15

Week Two
New Zealand v Samoa (men) at Eden Park, Auckland – Saturday, October 21
New Zealand v Tonga (women) at Eden Park, Auckland – Saturday, October 21
Fiji v Cook Islands (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby – Sunday, October 22
PNG v Cook Islands (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby – Sunday, October 22

Week Three
Australia v New Zealand (men) at AAMI Park, Melbourne – Saturday, October 28
Australia v New Zealand (women) at AAMI Park, Melbourne – Saturday, October 28
PNG v Fiji (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby – Sunday, October 29

Week Four
Men’s Pacific Cup Final in FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton – Saturday, November 4
Men’s Pacific Bowl Final at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby – Saturday, November 4

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