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Fiji and Samoa united in calling for more Tests

On the eve of their clash as part of the international triple-header at Eden Park, the coaches of both Toa Samoa and Fiji Bati have insisted more games are needed if they are to follow Tonga's lead in becoming an international powerhouse.

The match will be just the third time Samoa and Fiji have taken the field in a Test since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

In contrast New Zealand have played seven games since that tournament while England have played five.

Fiji mentor Brandon Costin said that while he was pleased to be part of such a big day for international league on Saturday, more opportunities were needed for the smaller tier-two nations in the Pacific.

"Yes this Test match is important but we need those extra Test matches so our ranking can go up and we get more opportunities," Costin said.  

"In the Pacific nations we are trying to follow Tonga's model. If our international ranking wants to go up we need more games.

"Every Test match is an important one. This one is obviously a bit tougher for us because Samoa are going from strength to strength.

"They were really impressive in the [World Cup] 9s."

Match Highlights: Samoa v Fiji

Samoa coach Matt Parish said if the game is serious about growing international league then nations like his and Fiji should be playing the same number of games as the traditional big three countries do each year.

"We had one game in 2018 and one this year so far," Parish said.

"I hope [we get enough games before the next World Cup in 2021 to prepare]. There's no doubt we need as many games as Australia, New Zealand and England get.

"Until that happens there will never be equality across the international game."

When asked how far away from Tonga his side was right now in terms of the ability to compete with tier-one nations, Parish replied with "probably one player".

While Tonga have had previous tier-one stars such as Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and Siosiua Taukeiaho commit to them in recent years, Samoa still have a number of their best players lining up for New Zealand or Australia at Test level.

Current Kangaroos prop Josh Papalii played for Samoa at the 2017 World Cup, while New Zealand wing Ken Maumalo and Samoa-born Kiwis fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are among the other big-name players eligible for the island nation.

Parish said he didn't approach Papalii about playing for Samoa this year, believing his current form meant it was a near certainty that Mal Meninga would select him to be part of the Kangaroos.

"I didn't have that conversation with Josh," Parish said.

"He's been fantastic for the Raiders and Queensland this year, so I am sure Mal wouldn't want him to go too quickly.

"He's got Samoan heritage and a relationship with most of the guys in the team, but he's been chosen for Australia and it's well deserved too.

"He's been fantastic and being Samoan, we certainly cheer for him."

The match at Eden Park will be the fourth time Fiji and Samoa have clashed at Test level and the first time since 2016, with Fiji winning two of the prior three meetings.

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