RFL confirm England Knights will tour Papua New Guinea this year

Drew Darbyshire

The Rugby Football League has confirmed that England Knights will tour Papua New Guinea for a two-game Test series later this year.

Paul Anderson’s Knights will play games in Lae and the capital Port Moresby. It will be the first competitive games since the England Knights concept was brought back as part of the England Performance Unit earlier this year.

The Knights will spend time at the training facilities of Brisbane Broncos in Australia, before travelling to the island, where rugby league is the national sport, for a two-game Test series against the Kumuls.

RFL interim chief executive Ralph Rimmer thinks the tour will benefit England’s ‘reserve’ players massively.

He said: “The England Knights programme is an integral part of our vision for a successful national team in the next four years and beyond.

“We were determined that we would create meaningful games and experiences that would test this squad of players and travelling to the other side of the world, to one of the most passionate and avid Rugby League nations on the planet will certainly do that.

“We are absolutely committed to creating an environment and selection of fixtures that give us the best chance of winning the World Cup in 2021 and 2025 and I have spoken to the coaches and players involved in the England Performance Unit and I know that they are all incredibly excited about the opportunity to test themselves later this year.”

The 24-man squad will face Papua New Guinea on October 27 in Lae and then travel to Port Moresby to take on the Kumuls in their capital city a week later on November 3.

RFL rugby director Kevin Sinfield is delighted that an agreement for the tour has been finalised.

He said: “We want to work with players as early as we can and help them to hopefully progress on to the senior team for the World Cup in 2021 and/or 2025.

“The Knights programme ties in fully with our ‘England Heartbeat’ philosophy of getting players ready to perform at their very best in an England shirt for the Senior team. This is achieved through providing players with exposure against other nations and playing styles, intensity of high level international rugby and life experiences they may never have come across.

“We think this tour to Papua New Guinea ticks all of the boxes and every player in contention should be looking forward to the trip.”

The Knights tour adds to a busy schedule for England in 2018, with the senior squad travelling to Denver in June to face New Zealand, before a three-match Test series against the Kiwis gets underway in the autumn.

Anderson announced his England Knights Performance squad in March. Click here to see the team in full.