The Kangaroos will host Toa Samoa and the Jillaroos will play the Kiwi Ferns in re-matches of last year’s World Cup finals to kick off a new Pacific Championships involving men’s and women’s teams from seven nations.
The Australian Rugby League Commission announced details of the Pacific Championships to be played in 2023 and 2024, with Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea hosting matches at the end of this season.
The opening round double-header at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium on October 14 will be the first time the Gallagher Kangaroos and Harvey Norman Jillaroos have played in Australia since the 2017 World Cup finals at Suncorp Stadium.
Australia and New Zealand men’s and women’s teams will also play a double-header at Melbourne’s AAMI Park two weeks later.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, were in attendance at the launch of the Pacific Championships in Brisbane as the ARLC also announced a partnership with the Australian Government to promote and develop rugby league in the Pacific through the Championships.
The 2021 Rugby League World Cup Champions
Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa and Papua New Guinea will take part in the 2023 men’s Pacific Championships, while Tonga travel to England for an historic three Test series.
It is envisaged that Tonga will play in the 2024 Pacific Championships, possibly with another nation travelling to Europe, before England men’s and women’s teams come to Australia in 2025 for a revival of the Ashes.
"It’s a goosebump moment when you see what it means to both fans and players when Test matches are played," said NRL CEO Andrew Abdo.
"I have been fortunate enough to go to a number of rugby league Tests where I have been overwhelmed by the passion of the players, the celebration of culture and the celebration of all the diversity that is the different nations that play rugby league in our region.
"Seeing that all come together it’s amazing how sport and rugby league is such a unifying force for us and I believe the passion will grow and the international series will become a really important part of the season.
"It's important that we are investing in grassroots and pathways now so we are able to have talented players represent potentially a franchise from that region."
The 2023 Pacific Championships will include two match days in Australia, two in New Zealand and four in Papua New Guinea.
The men’s tournaments will be spread across two pools from October 14 and culminate in finals in Hamilton and Port Moresby on November 4-5.
Tonga women will join the other six nations in a series of international fixtures that make up the women’s 2023 Pacific Championships when they take on the Kiwi Ferns at Eden Park on October 21, along with the Kiwis and Samoa.
The Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns will meet twice in Townsville on October 14, as part of a double-header featuring the Kangaroos and Samoa, and in Melbourne on October 28, alongside the Australian and New Zealand men’s teams in a trans-Tasman double-header.
“The Commission’s focus on growing the international game will combine with an equally strong desire to grow rugby league in the Pacific,” ARLC Commissioner the Hon Kate Jones said.
The 2021 Women's Rugby League World Cup Champions
“The 2023 Pacific Championships will showcase the best of international Rugby League in matches across three countries. Importantly, the international matches will be highlighted by both men’s and women’s matches.
“The southern hemisphere tournaments will deliver on the broader NRL Pacific Strategy objectives - to create pathways for aspiring athletes, coaches, referees and administrators from the Pacific along with further growing international Rugby League.”
2023 Pacific Championships Schedule
Week One – October 14-15
- Australia v Samoa (men) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- Australia v New Zealand (women) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- PNG v Cook Islands (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
- Samoa v Fiji (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Two – October 21-22
- New Zealand v Samoa (men) at Eden Park, Auckland
- New Zealand v Tonga (women) at Eden Park, Auckland
- Fiji v Cook Islands (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
- PNG v Cook Islands (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Three – October 28-29
- Australia v New Zealand (men) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Australia v New Zealand (women) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
- PNG v Fiji (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby
Week Four – November 4-5
- The Final of the men’s Pacific Cup tournament on November 4 in Hamilton, New Zealand
- The Final of the men’s Pacific Bowl tournament on November 5 at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby