Kiwis to play Cook Islands in Rarotonga

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 11:44 05/07/2011
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NO HOLIDAY: New Zealand will tune up for this year's Four Nations rugby league tournament in Rarotonga.

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New Zealand will tune up for this year's Four Nations rugby league tournament in Rarotonga, but they won't be there on holiday.

The Kiwis will play the Cook Islands on October 7 in Rarotonga, just five days after the National Rugby League grand final and three weeks before New Zealand kick off their Four Nations title defence in the UK.

New Zealand hosted Samoa last year and Tonga in 2008 and 2009 but, had the Cook Islands match been played in New Zealand, it would have been swamped by Rugby World Cup quarterfinals weekend.

Taking it to the islands makes sense and hosting the current world champions will also be a major boost for the Cook Islands, NZRL chief executive Jim Doyle said today.

''We are committed to assisting the Pacific Islands nations with the development of their rugby league.

''Taking a game to the islands is very exciting and is one way we can continue this development process.''

As the match is so soon after the conclusion of the NRL season, and the same weekend of the Super League final, many of the frontline Kiwis are unlikely to play.

The Cook Islands missed qualifying for the 2008 World Cup, but have qualified for the 2013 tournament and are currently ranked 14th in the world.

Cook Islands Rugby League chairman Charles Carlson said he hoped hosting the Kiwis will be the catalyst for  other international teams to visit, and possibly hosting a pre-season NRL match.

''We have an excellent relationship with New Zealand and many of our players have had great success there.

''A number of our young players are also making their way in the NRL so this is a wonderful opportunity for our community to see some of their idols up close, and for our players to challenge themselves against the best. ''We want this tour to be a success for rugby league, which I believe will open doors.''

The Kiwis will also play a one-off test against the Kangaroos in Newcastle, Australia, on October 16 before heading to the UK.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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