Cook Islands to replace Lebanon in Pacific Tests

Drew Darbyshire

The Cook Islands are set to replace Lebanon in next year’s mid-season Tests and will take part in the 2020 Oceania Cup.

The Kukis will join New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea in competing for the Oceania Cup next year.

The newly created Oceania Cup began last Saturday night, with New Zealand beating Tonga and Samoa defeating Papua New Guinea in round one games.

It will continue at the end of this season when Australia and Fiji join the tournament.

The Kangaroos will host the Kiwis on October 25 and will meet Tonga a week later.

But because Mal Meninga’s side are touring Great Britain at the end of 2020, they can’t participate in the Oceania Cup and their place will be occupied by the Cook Islands.

Last weekend’s representative round also featured an ‘invitational’ match between Fiji and Lebanon.

And the triple header – which also saw Fiji’s first women’s Test against Papua New Guinea Orchids – was overshadowed by a dispute between Lebanon players and the Lebanon Rugby League Federation.

It’s unclear whether the Cedars will be invited to take part in next year’s representative weekend, but England Knights, Vanuatu and Niue have been reported as possible opponents.

New Zealand is expected to play Tonga, with the winger of this year’s Oceania Cup Pool B between Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea to be promoted to join them in Pool A next year.

Cook Islands will come into the Pool B category and all six nations are expected to play mid-season and at the end of the year.

Tony Iro’s Kukis will travel to Florida to face the United States on November 16 in a play-off for the final spot in the 2021 World Cup.

High-profile stars such as Dylan Napa, Alex Glenn, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Zane Tetavano, Kenny Edwards, Anthony Gelling, Adam Tangata, Tinirau Arona and Zeb Taia could be available for Cook Islands’ World Cup qualifier.

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