The England v Tonga three-match test series has finally been locked in for this autumn, and so have the stadiums and dates.
It will be the first time the two nations have met since the memorable 2017 World Cup semi-final in Auckland, which saw England book a place in the final with a pulsating 20-18 victory.
All three of this year’s games will be played in the traditional heartland areas in the north of England.
World champions St Helens will host the first test at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday, October 22. Tonga coach Kristian Woolf will return to St Helens, where he led the Saints to three consecutive Super League titles between 2020-22.
A week later, the second test will be played at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield on Saturday, October 28.
The test series will come to a conclusion at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday, November 4.
England will use Saturday’s mid-season test against France in Warrington as a warm-up fixture ahead of this autumn’s clashes against Tonga.
England face France in the international double-header in Warrington on Saturday. The women’s test gets underway at 2pm, followed by the men’s at 4:30pm, both live on Sky Sports.
Tickets now on sale for Tongan tests
The Rugby Football League have confirmed that tickets are now on sale for this autumn’s test series as they look to build on last year’s home World Cup.
Tickets are on sale now at eticketing.co.uk/rugbyleague from £25 adults and £12.50 Under-16s. A three-match bundle is also available from £52.50 Adults and £26.25 Under-16s.
The RFL say the series broadcasting and naming rights will be announced in due course.
Test series announcement welcomed by IRL
Troy Grant, the chair of International Rugby League, has welcomed official confirmation of the series.
Grant said: “The announcement of the historic series between England and Tonga provides clarity around international content and builds on the back of a great World Cup in England last October and November.
“The Tonga players and officials, led by coach Kristian Woolf, have pioneered the rise of international Rugby League since the 2017 World Cup and they will create further history by becoming the first Pacific Islands nation to play a full international series against England in England.
“I would like to thank Tonga for making this investment in international rugby league in the northern hemisphere; and wish them every success as they seek revenge.”
The history behind England v Tonga
Tonga last played England on English soil in the Federation Shield final back in 2006, which England won 32-14.
It wasn’t until the World Cup in 2017 when the two met again when the Tongans, trailing 20-0 with just seven minutes left on the clock, launched a late comeback to set up a nervy finish for England, with Wayne Bennett’s England side just hanging on for a 20-18 amongst the sea of red at the Mount Smart Stadium.
The 2017 World Cup was the start of Tonga’s meteoric rise on the international rugby league scene. Two years later, they recorded historic victories over Australia and Great Britain, with Woolf at the helm and led by world stars Jason Taumalolo and Siosiua Taukeiaho.
Rhodri Jones, the managing director of RL Commercial, said: “Down the years Tonga have brought us some of rugby league’s most memorable World Cup moments. From 1995 when they outplayed hot favourites New Zealand in an incredible game at Wilderspool, only to lose 25-24, through to that enthralling encounter with England in 2017 which will live long in the memory of all who were present.
“Two years later they shook off the ‘nearly’ tag and defeated the Kangaroos, then Great Britain.
“Tonga will bring incredible passion, as well as outstanding skills. So too will England – and the passion of our supporters can help take us to victory.
“We have chosen high quality, accessible stadia in rugby league heartlands and tickets will sell fast. This is a test series not to be missed.”