England’s proposed test series against Samoa up in the air with Tonga also in talks to face Pacific neighbours in 2024

Ben Olawumi
Kristian Woolf, Shaun Wane, Gordon Chan Kum Tong

Tonga boss Kristian Woolf (top left) and England boss Shaun Wane (bottom left) both want to face Gordon Chan Kum Tong (right) and Samoa in 2024 - Alamy

The noise from the England camp is that Samoa’s trip over here in 2024 is already sealed, but that may well not be the case if Tonga have anything to do with it, as discussed by their head coach Kristian Woolf last night.

For some time now, the understanding has been that Shaun Wane’s side will host Samoa this time next year in a series like the one against the Tongans which has just ended.

Woolf’s men meanwhile have been expected to take Samoa’s place in the Pacific Championships, be that in the Cup – won by New Zealand yesterday – or the Bowl – won by Papua New Guinea earlier today.

Nothing is set in stone yet though according to the former St Helens chief, who saw Tonga beaten in all three games this autumn, with England achieving a whitewash.

Tonga may kibosh England’s planned 2024 test series against Samoa

Speaking after yesterday’s 26-4 defeat at Headingley, Woolf said: “I’m not sure if they (Samoa) are coming over to England. We’ve had discussions about playing them over there as well, so I don’t think anyone should count that as a given just yet.

“I don’t think the Pacific Championships in terms of what it exactly looks like is completely nailed on just yet, but my intention there is I don’t want to speak out of scrutiny.

“When I get back to Australia, I’ll be in contact with people in the NRL and people who are now making themselves more involved with international rugby league to try to find out what that might look like.

“We’ll figure out what our involvement is from there.”

England boss Shaun Wane has Samoa circled on the calendar already

Contrastingly, in England’s eyes, a 2024 series against ‘Toa Samoa’ is firmly in the diary already and has been referenced frequently by boss Wane over the last few weeks.

That viewpoint hadn’t changed when Wane sat down with the press, before Woolf did, after yesterday’s victory in Leeds. He re-affirmed: “They (Samoa) will come with confidence after they stuffed us in the (World Cup) semi last year, so they’ll be really confident, but we’ve shown we can handle bigger bodies and we can play.

“Depending on the weather, we’ll challenge them with our skill, but that’ll be a massive challenge those three games next year.

“I’m hoping there’s a mid-season game and then Samoa, and then I’m hoping there’s an Ashes series in Australia and then the World Cup.

“There’s obviously an appetite for it and the game needs it. You look at that game today and it was an outstanding game, all the spectators will go home really happy, so a lot of people deserve a lot of credit.”

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