Test coach Mal Meninga.

Brits surprised by Kangaroos tour talk as Meninga pushes PNG match

An Australian team will play Papua New Guinea after the NRL grand final ahead of the October 14 trans-Tasman Test but a proposed 2019 Kangaroos tour has taken British officials by surprise, as they were planning a Lions tour.

The annual clash between the Australian PM’s XIII and the Kumuls in Port Moresby will be played on October 6 after PNG was last year forced to field a below-strength team because the Hunters were in the Intrust Super Cup grand final.

Australian coach Mal Meninga said the scheduling change would enable him to consider players from all NRL clubs, except those involved in the Telstra Premiership decider at ANZ Stadium on September 30.  

"I don't want to be playing any grand final players but for some players who haven't played for a while, who could be in the Test team, we would certainly have a look at them getting some time under their belt," Meninga told NRL.com.

"I think it is a great opportunity to introduce emerging talent as well. It is more than just a footy game, it is about social responsibility and messaging... that sort of stuff." 

David Klemmer takes on the PNG Kumuls.
David Klemmer takes on the PNG Kumuls. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

The Kangaroos will play New Zealand in Auckland the following weekend, and it is still hoped a Test between Australia and Tonga will take place later in October.

"I know that everyone is keen to do it so we are just waiting on the financial logistics of it all," Meninga said.

The PM’s XIII will play the Kumuls again next year but from 2020 the fixture is set to alternate between Fiji and PNG, according to the international calendar released by the NRL on Thursday.

Tonga will play New Zealand in Auckland in June 2020, while the Kangaroos are pencilled in for an end-of-season Test against Samoa at the new stadium in Townsville.

However, there is confusion about the Kangaroos' schedule in 2019, with RLIF CEO Nigel Wood saying the NRL calendar was at odds with what had already been announced.

"There are likely to be many surprised about how far the ARLC's new thinking deviates from the position it had previously committed to as part of the RLIF board in May 2017," Wood said.

"At that time, the RLIF board announced a GB Lions tour in 2019 to be followed by a Kangaroos tour in 2020, as a precursor to the next RLIF World Cup in the UK in 2021."

It is understood the proposed Kangaroos tour in 2019 was flagged with officials from Britain's RFL before the announcement by ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie, as they had been seeking to finalise details for the Lions tour at this month's RLIF meeting in Singapore.

Part of the NRL's rationale is a Lions tour in 2019 would be going head to head with a proposed new International Nines tournament to be introduced at the end of next season.

The NRL's calendar does not make any allowance for New Zealand and England’s agreement with 2025 World Cup backers Moore Sports International to play an annual Test in the United States to continue the platform laid by the Denver international last month. 

England forward Sam Burgess.
England forward Sam Burgess. ©NRL Photos

However, it is understood the NZRL may now seek to play the Test at the end of the NRL season, rather than during the mid-year standalone representative weekend.

Interestingly, the NRL calendar includes a mid-season Test between England and the Kiwis in Auckland in 2021, while England are slated to play a three-Test series in New Zealand in 2022.

Next year, the Kiwis would play Fiji on June 22 in a double-header with Samoa versus Tonga at the new Western Sydney Stadium, on the same weekend as the second State of Origin in Perth.

The four Pacific nations would then meet in two more double-headers at the end of the season in New Zealand, while the Kangaroos travel to Britain for a three-Test series. 

The full details of the NRL's proposed international calendar, and scheduled matches for this season, are:

2018

  • October 6: PM’s XIII v PNG (Port Moresby)
  • October 14: Australia v NZ (Auckland)
  • October 17: England v France (Leigh)
  • October 27: England v NZ (Hull)
  • October 27: PNG v England Knights (Lae)
  • November 3: England v NZ (Liverpool)
  • November 3: PNG v England Knights (Port Moresby)
  • November 11: England v NZ (Leeds)
  • November 17: France v NZ (France)

2019 mid-season

  • PNG v Cook Islands (TBC)

    Oceania Cup Round 1
  • NZ v Fiji (Parramatta)
  • Samoa v Tonga (Parramatta)

2019 end of season

  • PM XIII v PNG (Port Moresby)
  • International Nines (Parramatta)
  • Australia v NZ (Australia)
  • Great Britain v Australia – 3 Tests (UK)

    Oceania Cup Round 2
  • Fiji v Tonga  (NZ)
  • NZ v Samoa  (NZ)

    Oceania Cup Round 3
  • NZ v Tonga (NZ)
  • Fiji v Samoa (NZ)

2020 mid-season

          Southern Hemisphere Four Nations Round 1

  • NZ v Tonga (Auckland)

    Northern Hemisphere Four Nations Round 1
  • England v France (UK)

    Pacific Test double-header
  • Fiji v Samoa (Campbelltown)
  • PNG v Cook Islands (Campbelltown)

2020 end-of-season

  • PM XIII v Fiji (Suva)

    Southern Hemisphere 4 Nations Round 1
  • Australia v Samoa (Townsville)

    Southern Hemisphere 4 Nations Round 2
  • Australia v Tonga (Parramatta)
  • NZ v Samoa (Parramatta)

    Southern Hemisphere 4 Nations Round 3
  • Australia v NZ  (NZ)
  • Tonga v Samoa  (NZ)

    Northern Hemisphere 4 Nations Round 1
  • PNG v Fiji (Port Moresby)

    Northern Hemisphere 4 Nations Round 2
  • England v PNG (UK)
  • France v Fiji (UK)

    Northern Hemisphere 4 Nations Round 3
  • England v Fiji (UK)
  • France v PNG (UK)

2021 mid-season

  • NZ v England (Auckland)

    Pacific Test
  • Samoa v Tonga (Australia)
  • PNG v Fiji (Australia)   

2021 end-of-season

  • PM XIII v PNG (Port Moresby)
  • Australia v NZ (Australia)
  • World Cup (UK)

2022 mid-season

          Oceania Cup Round 1

  • PNG v Samoa (Campbelltown)
  • Fiji v Tonga (Campbelltown)

2022 end-of-season

  • PM XIII v Fiji (Suva)
  • Australia v NZ (Melbourne)

    Oceania Cup Round 2
  • PNG v Tonga (TBC)
  • Fiji v Samoa (TBC)

    Oceania Cup Round 3
  • PNG v Fiji (TBC)
  • Samoa v Tonga (TBC)

    Australia v Oceania Cup Winner (TBC)
  • NZ v England - 3 Tests (NZ)