Pacific RL Tests just the start say stars

Saturday’s Pacific Test concept is just the next step in the development of international rugby league as those involved eye more opportunities.

Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea’s squads have descended on the Gold Coast ahead of Saturday’s back-to-back clashes at CBUS Super Stadium.

Less than a day after Australia and New Zealand clash in Friday’s Anzac Test in Brisbane, Tonga will face off against rivals Samoa while Fiji will battle PNG’s Kumuls.

Queensland State of Origin coach and former Kangaroos star Mal Meninga says giving Pacific Rim nations their own opportunity to shine is a winner.

Meninga, who’ll coach the Kumuls on Saturday, said the introduction of the PNG-based Hunters to the Queensland Cup had laid the platform for offering opportunities to players.

The Hunters just missed out on finals in their inaugural campaign in the second-tier competition and will provide 11 players to the 19-man Kumuls squad for Saturday’s game.

“It’s important for the development of rugby league long-term,” Meninga told AAP.

“The Pacific Rim is a really good area and we already know how many great Pacific Islanders and Melanesians are playing in the National Rugby League competition.

“It’s a great breeding ground and it’d be great to see teams out of Tonga, teams out of Samoa, teams out of Fiji, like PNG play in the second-tier competitions.

“That’s the only way you’re going to develop rugby league around the Pacific Rim.”

Former Queensland and Kangaroos legend Petero Civoniceva, a proud Fijian, is playing a leading role in providing a team from his homeland in the NSW Cup from 2016 onwards.

Civoniceva says the precedent shown by the success of the Hunters made it a no-brainer for Fiji rugby league to pursue a similar objective.

“I’m about to put a bid to the NSW rugby league to have a Fijian side in the NSW Cup next year and, yeah, we’re really positive and hopeful that’ll come to fruition,” Civoniceva told AAP.

“No doubt, for all the other Pacific nations, Papua New Guinea have made a successful inclusion into the Queensland Cup. Hopefully our representation in the NSW Cup will open the door to the next two sides being Tonga and Samoa.

“It’s an exciting few years ahead and they game has an opportunity to go to the next level in the Pacific.”

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