More dates have been added to the international rugby league calendar with the announcement of a first-ever ‘Pacific Championship’ for the southern hemisphere nations, set to take place between October and November across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
The inaugural Pacific Championship will involve six male sides – including the three host countries listed above – split across two pools of three. Australia, Samoa and New Zealand will make up the first of those, with PNG, Fiji and the Cook Islands making up pool number two.
Tonga aren’t involved in this year’s edition as they travel to face England in a triple-header of games as confirmed back in April. Kristian Woolf’s side are expected to compete in the 2024 Pacific Championships when they come around however, and the expectation is that another of the six will drop out to come across and face the Three Lions.
Notably, there will also be a female equivalent Championship containing the same six nations and Tonga, taking that particular tournament to a seven-side format.
Introducing the ‘Pacific Championships’
It was confirmed earlier this year that England’s men and women will travel to Australia in 2025 for the return of ‘The Ashes’ series.
But with Shaun Wane’s side confirmed as taking on Tonga this year, something was needed to fill the southern hemisphere void, and up stepped the ‘Pacific Championships’, as announced earlier today by The Australian Rugby League Commission.
The headline games of this year’s newly-formed tournament kick it off, with two World Cup final rematches.
Both the Kangaroos and Jillaroos were crowned world champions in 2022 at Old Trafford, with the men beating Samoa in their final and the women seeing off New Zealand in theirs.
Those four nations will go up against each other again as the Pacific Championships get underway, as both Aussie sides play in their home country for the first time since 2017, with the full schedule below.
2023 Pacific Championships Schedule
Interestingly, the men’s tournament begins on October 14, the same day as the Super League Grand Final.
It’s inevitable therefore that whichever two teams reach Old Trafford will have players from the nations involved that day, so they’ll miss out on a chance to pull on their nation’s jersey.
Two match days during the three-week-long tournament will be held in Australia, with two in New Zealand and four in Papua New Guinea.
Week One – October 14-15
- Australia v Samoa (men) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- Australia v New Zealand (women) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- PNG v Cook Islands (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
- Samoa v Fiji (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Two – October 21-22
- New Zealand v Samoa (men) at Eden Park, Auckland
- New Zealand v Tonga (women) at Eden Park, Auckland
- Fiji v Cook Islands (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
- PNG v Cook Islands (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Three – October 28-29
- Australia v New Zealand (men) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Australia v New Zealand (women) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
- PNG v Fiji (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Four – November 4-5
- The Final of the men’s Pacific Cup tournament on November 4 in Hamilton, New Zealand
- The Final of the men’s Pacific Bowl tournament on November 5 at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby