Kiwis stars hopeful Tests can be played

Daniel Gilhooly
NZ skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is hoping international rugby league will be played this year

Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak fears the gains made in international rugby league will evaporate if Tests are not played this year.

The international game looks set to be engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 unless a window can be negotiated straight after the NRL season is completed in late October.

NZ Rugby League boss Greg Peters is investigating the idea of playing Tests against Pacific nations in November to run concurrently with the State of Origin series.

Peters said the Tests would probably be staged in Australia, where most of the players are based, although New Zealand could play host should trans-Tasman travel be eased by that point.

His strong preference is for crowds to attend.

While there are bridges to cross, Canterbury fullback Watene-Zelezniak hasn't given up on running out in 2020 for the world No.1-ranked Kiwis.

During lockdown he has been kept updated by Peters and New Zealand coach Michael Maguire, who are hopeful the groundwork laid to give rugby league a bigger footprint last year won't be wasted.

An annual six-nation Oceania Cup series was established while Australia had agreed to a three-Test series in England this year - their first tour since 2003 - which is now unlikely to go ahead.

"The international game's getting big at the moment so something like this, if we don't play, can kill that run we're having," Watene-Zelezniak said.

"It will be awesome to get a game out, it's the pinnacle for us. We don't have Origin so international is the highest we can go."

Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was equally keen to wear black this year.

He said every minute together under Maguire was precious as they build towards the World Cup in England late next year.

"With the World Cup, there's so many teams looking really strong. I'm pretty sure every international team would like to get together and start getting ready.

"Hopefully we can include it somewhere in this season."