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New Zealand skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Excited by the concept, and relieved to have some long-awaited certainty on the international rugby league calendar.

That was the reaction from Test stars present at Tuesday's announcement in Auckland, which saw the format for the inaugural RLIF Oceania Cup rolled out, and confirmation that the Great Britain Lions will tour New Zealand and Papua New Guinea this year.  

New Zealand will host games involving Australia, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and the Lions, while Samoa will meet Papua New Guinea at Campbelltown Stadium and WIN Stadium will see the Kangaroos take on the Kiwis.

Kiwis fullback and reigning Dally M Medal winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck said that after many years of uncertainty around international fixtures, it was pleasing to see the 2019 plan laid out in full.

"It's exciting, I am really excited by the proposal… there's a calendar and there's something to aim for at the end of the year," Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"It's awesome that they have announced it, it's there and we know what we are playing for.

"Not knowing if there was an Anzac Test or an end-of-year tour, that's always challenging. Now that they have announced it for the end of the year you can plan towards it."

Tonga's Leivaha Pulu, New Zealand's Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Great Britain's George Burgess.
Tonga's Leivaha Pulu, New Zealand's Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Great Britain's George Burgess. ©William Booth/

Following their sold-out clash at Mount Smart Stadium in October the Kangaroos will meet Mate Ma'a Tonga once again, forming part of an Eden Park triple-header on November 2 which will also see the Kiwis v Lions and Samoa play Fiji.

Having long called for more meaningful games on the international stage, Tonga will now have the opportunity to face Australia, New Zealand and the Lions in the space of six months, an outcome which Tongan forward Leivaha Pulu said was satisfying.  

"We had to be patient and bide our time. The boys got an opportunity last year with a game against Australia, and for it to come around again this year, with more games, is a blessing," Pulu said.

"It will be awesome to play against the Great Britain team and to test ourselves and see where we are at… I just can't wait."

Meanwhile South Sydney Rabbitohs enforcer George Burgess spoke of the excitement at having the chance to emulate older brother Sam in pulling on a Great Britain jersey, with the Lions brand returning to the field for the first time since 2007.

"I grew up watching the likes of Adrian Morley, Jamie Peacock [playing for the Lions] and got to see my brother Sam make his debut for Great Britain in 2007, which was a really proud moment for our family," Burgess said.

"If I get the chance to make my debut this year it's going to be a super proud moment for me.

"The fact that we have got seven nations competing over [this period] is going to be massive.

"We have been longing for concrete fixtures to be put in place. Hopefully we can get it more in advance in the next few years, so fans can start to plan and look forward to these types of games."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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