Pacific Tests confirmed for Origin period
Fresh off the success of the Rugby League World Cup matches showcasing Pacific nations and the groundswell of support enjoyed by Lebanon, plans have been made for those nations to meet again during the State of Origin bye week of the 2018 NRL season.
Six nations will compete during a three-match festival at Campbelltown Stadium on June 23. Tonga, Samoa, Lebanon and Papua New Guinea will be joined by two further teams to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Tonga's Leilani Latu and Samoa's Sauaso Sue were on hand for the festival's launch at Rugby League Central on Wednesday. The NRL pair were still revelling in the passionate, and exciting, football that has been on display during matches between Pacific nations over the past three weeks.
"The atmosphere during this year's [Pacific Test] matches was incredible and it's wonderful to see the continued excitement and explosion of the Pacific nations' success throughout this year's World Cup," said Penrith Panthers prop Latu.
"For me personally, this year's match was one to savour and I'll be doing everything I can to keep the success of Tonga going."
Before their 2018 focus turns to the Pacific Tests, Latu and Sue have to navigate the early stages of a new NRL season.
Latu said the player swap between his club and Cronulla that resulted in James Maloney and Matt Moylan trading jerseys had made for an interesting off-season.
"It's been unfortunate with Matty moving across to Cronulla, he was a great leader for us and a great captain on and off the field," he said.
"I'm just really happy for the decision that he made.
"Obviously he had a couple of problems he had to deal with but all the boys respected his decision and I just hope he has a successful career playing with Cronulla."
Latu believes the addition of James Maloney will be great for the team's overall maturity.
"I personally haven't met him but from what my teammates have said about him he's a great bloke on and off the field," Latu said of Maloney.
"He's going to bring a great amount of experience and talent to our team. Having the likes of him and Peter Wallace; two experienced players in our spine to help calm everyone down [will help].
"I think the average age for everyone in our team is 23, 24 years old."
While Sue is looking forward to the return of Benji Marshall to the Wests Tigers, it is Josh Reynolds' nickname that has him perplexed.
"Still waiting to figure out how that nickname 'Grub' came along, still waiting to see that part of him come out," Sue remarked.
"Josh has played a lot of finals footy which is great for the club, [it is] awesome to have him share that knowledge there with our young guys.
"Hopefully we are there playing finals footy come September."
Organisers of the one-day festival of international rugby league are hoping to announce the remaining two teams in the coming weeks.