Teams lose hope of mid-year Pacific Tests

·2-min read

Stunned Samoa coach Matt Parish claims he can't work out why the Pacific Tests are missing from this year's mid-season rugby league calendar.

The NRL and International Rugby league are yet to release any details for the June fixtures, which have been a showpiece on the Saturday night of the representative round since 2013.

It's understood that could hinge on the status of the end-of-year World Cup, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raising significant question marks over its fate.

But with two months until the representative round and no confirmation of any fixtures, several teams have told AAP they have given up hope of the games proceeding and aren't preparing for them.

"I honestly can't work it out," Parish said

"I am dumbfounded by it all and that it isn't going ahead. It's a win for everyone involved.

"It was one of the best and most well watched games of the year.

"It gave the Pacific Nations the chance to showcase their skills and nothing is happening.

"It's disappointing, not just from a Samoan point of view but also for Tonga and Fiji not to be able to showcase their skills too."

None of the Pacific nations have played a Test since the end of 2019, when Tonga shocked Australia and highlighted the rise of the international game.

However COVID-19 is now no longer a real logistical issue in playing the games, given the squads of Tonga and Samoa are made up almost solely of NRL players.

Papua New Guinea and Fiji also have feeder teams in Australia to go with their NRL stars, with the only real challenge coming in the form of flying coaches over.

The mid-year Pacific Tests are traditionally sanctioned by the IRL but are organised and run by the NRL.

The league initially took a financial hit on the games but in recent years have moved closer to breaking even.

That has coincided with the rise of the Pacific game, with almost 50 per cent of players in the NRL now having Polynesian heritage.

"If you played Samoa and Tonga it would be massive," Parish said.

"I've got no doubt with the right teams involved they would pack out Bankwest.

"It hasn't been scheduled in for that weekend, which it would have been by that now.

"It's very disappointing. Particularly from a Samoan point of view we have supported it from day dot."

Meanwhile, it's hoped the fate of the World Cup will be made clearer soon, as the UK emerge out of lockdown.

There remain other challenges, however, including how players will be brought back to Australia after and if they will need to serve hotel quarantine.

The only southern-hemisphere Test locked in for this year so far is a yet-to-be announced fixture between the Kangaroos and Kiwis.