By STEVE MASCORD
THERE’S more than just prestige and a semi-final berth for Pacific nations to play for in the World Cup, Far & Wide can reveal.
It has been pretty much set in stone that the highest-ranked island country in Europe at the end of the year will be the fourth team in next year’s Four Nations, which will be held in the southern hemisphere.
That’s a big carrot for Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea. Aside from the obvious benefits of exposure for their brands and for their sponsors, players will be more likely to stick solid with a developing nation if they get to play the big boys.
The mid-year Pacific Test in Australia, then, will not now be tied to the Four Nations. While Tonga and Samoa are confident their clash will become an annual fixture, the NRL wants to share the love around and have different countries compete each year.
We’re hearing Fiji and PNG for 2014 – although if the clubs agree, this could be part of a double-header with Tonga-Samoa.
MORE big news from your number one World Cup column.
The proposed World Cup warm-up game between Samoa and the United States in Hawaii is actually nothing of the sort.
Instead, it will be a domestic players-only clash between the Hawaiian Allstars and Samoa and will take place in around a month. It still hasn’t been confirmed.
BUT…here’s the scoop on what RLWC warm-ups are likely to take place. Fiji are talking to Rochdale, Papua New Guinea hope to play Scotland, France will likely play the United States and England hope to take on Italy.
All these games will take place on the weekend of October 17-18. So hold off booking your travel to Europe until these games are confirmed and the venues announced.
THE European Shield, played over two seasons, resumes at the end of this month.
Russia currently leads the shield, over Serbia, Germany and Italy. The Russians travel to Belgrade for their first game of this year on May 25.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK