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  1. As a related aside, and potentially controversial given the heritage debate, how good is the strength and depth of the Tongan squad!? Some of the best forwards in the game. Backs can certainly hold their own. World-class halves have never been the strong point for the Pacific nations. Samoa and Fiji are growing big pools of (some) local and (mainly) heritage players too. Personally I think it’s great for the international game. It wasn’t that long ago the New Zealand would struggle to field 13 players with permanent NRL experience. Now we’ve potentially got 3 extra nations who, given a little bit of time and exposure, will put up consistent challenges to the big 3. Tonga Best 17: Hopoate, Fusitua, Kata, M. Jennings, Fonua; Hingano, Lolohea; Taumololo, Ma’u, Pangai Jr; Fonua-Blake, Haavili, A. Fifitia D. Fifita (Bris); Terepo; Taukeiaho; Katoa (Panthers) Extras: Hurrell, Ofahengue, D. Tupou, Tatola , Fainu, Katoa (Sharks), Fotuaika, R.Jennings, G. Jennings UK: Langi, Moa, Manu, Murdoch-Maisila, Ta’ai, D.Fifita (Wakey)
  2. In guessing a backrow of: 13. Whitehead 12. Bateman 11. Tapine Papa’ali and Hodgson front row with Dunamis Lui or one of the young props on the roster. Raiders seemingly going for mobility in the pack next year given the loss of monsters Boyd and Paulo.
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  4. jenson

    Jackson Hastings

    Reports seem to confirm Salford. Edit: adding link from NRL site. Seems close to done. A mate of mine taught him during his last year or two of school when he was with the Steelers/Dragons juniors (who also gladly let him go to the Rossters). All the rugby league talent in the world, but even back then on a social level he didn’t really have any mates. Arrogant was probably the tamest descriptor put forward. Doesn’t seem to get into drunken, assaulting type trouble, just has a knack of really rubbing people the wrong way. He’s still young and people continually grow and develop, but the track record is there.
  5. jenson

    New York bid for 2020

    Heading says SL in 2020. Based on what’s been discussed already, I’m reading it as acceptance by July for the 2019 championship and then Super League in 2020 after they sweep aside all-comers. But yes, it’s a little confusing that they don’t mention 2019. Good to see some activity - feels like a while since the last updates.
  6. jenson

    Second Canadian Team

    The quote is the only ‘fact’, right? You have revealed some insightful points, but this isn’t one of your best. It’s quite obvious Perez’s own words did not state any super league clubs need ‘to make way for the North Americans’. TWP started in 2017. It might be a stretch for them to make super league in 2019. Maybe 2020 if things fall into place. 5-6 NA teams will not quickly appear at SL level. So there is time for existing clubs to innovate and compete. But regardless of NA, rugby league faces a huge challenge. Support and player numbers are dropping (a challenge only faced by many sports beyond rugby league). Historic clubs are dying, and that started long before TWP. Compared to other global sports and entertainment options rugby league is not in a position of power. It’s barely a blip. That matters. It matters for today’s casual fan. It matters for tomorrow’s fan because, most importantly, it matters for tomorrow’s athlete. Athletes want exposure and opportunity. Fans want to watch the best athletes. Rugby League needs a shot in the arm. It needs something to inspire current and future athletes to lob on down to the local academy, whether in Salford, Cumbria or Toronto and make a career from it. North America seems to be that something at the moment. Toulouse, PNG Hunters, a possible Fiji team, Serbia, even London in the lower grades are all good examples of things happening in new and exciting directions. Tonga and Fiji at the World Cup. RLWC 2025 in the US. But they haven’t captured the imagination of players and fans like TWP or the NYC bid. The time spent on the approval of NA bids indicate the RFL are doing reasonable diligence. There will be challenges. There will be heartache. There will be success stories, some of which might even come from the heartlands. I’m all for this NA experiment.
  7. I’d prefer Aus v Tonga in Hawaii, and Aus v NZ in Auckland, but if they decide to play either/all of these in Qatar, surely Lebanon would have to be on the cards too. Highest bidder might not necessarily be best for the game long-term, but if highest bidder wins then what can we do to build it right up? Week 1: Ton v Leb / Aus NZ Week 2: Leb v Fra / Aus v Ton, with NZ in England?? Some other nations are crying out for fixtures. Could you sell the idea to Qatar - the bigs nations will play if you pay to get more teams involved? Canada, Serbia, Italy, etc wouldn’t say no, I’m sure. Could always be better planned, but still it’s good to see there are a few options on the table for internationals with a range of pros and cons.
  8. Looks like things are getting closer to fruition: If they can replicate even half the success of the PNG Hunters it’ll be another good shot in the arm for Pacific RL. The competitive landscape is a bit different though, with Union the number 1 code, the strength of Sevens, and an NRC team already playing in Aus. Interesting times ahead. Good luck to all involved!
  9. Hotly debated on here already, but here’s a few digs and arguments from an author on the other side. For mine, the rigid eligibility criteria the author discusses (play for one nation, you’re with them for life) smacks of head-in-the-sand given the quickly changing global citizenship dynamics. If that attitude is widespread in union, that feels like an opportunity for league to get players over from fringe or heritage nations. The RLWC started this conversation. Players are taking notice. Nations are paying attention. How can we, the thirteen code, capitalise?
  10. Great point. I was saddened when talking to RL fan a few days ago who didn't know the World Cup was on, let alone care much. Hopefully this coverage invigorates casual fans, and it should certainly up the competitiveness. In a roundabout way, RL has opened debate on heritage in an increasingly fluid world, and the much-maligned eligibility rules could accidentally be somewhat of a leading model for the future.
  11. jenson

    Your international rugby league rankings?

    Australia, New Zealand, England. Samoa, Fiji, Scotland, Tonga, PNG, France ... @Farmduck is spot on about Lebanon and Italy, so let's throw one of them in the top 10. Wales and Ireland should be competitive in every game against the other mid-tier teams but might not have the heritage/talent depth to get multiple wins. Can't see USA providing much resistance.
  12. Should be a regular first-team man in super league, even if that's consistently from the bench. If they get relegated and he stays, definitely a starter. Can't say he really stood out in attack in the games I've seen, but seems fairly mobile. Defensively has a very sound technique. After a strong Dragons tackle, you'd often see him or De Belin (another with a great technique) at the bottom of it.
  13. Very positive about a global international week, especially off the back of a great event in Campbelltown last week. That's the most significant part of this announcement. Hoping over 4 years it develops momentum for France, Wales, Scotland and Ireland to build stronger squad foundations as it has for the Pacific nations. Down under, we just got rid of City-Country because it was a dated concept. So ye olde Lions revival seems out-of-touch, especially when the game is crying out for a greater number of competitive nations. I could be wrong as nostalgia and tradition done right can create excitement, but I'm skeptical that Joe Public in NZ or Aus will get any more excited about watching GB than they would for a highly competitive England.
  14. Great performance from the men in white. It had all the makings of an ambush but they showed great composure and discipline to wear Samoa down. The playmakers showed their class. Hopefully Samoa (and the undercards from Tonga, Fiji & PNG) gained confidence and combination to put in competitive performances at the end of the year. Also hoping the growth of this weekend inspires commitment to a similar SL break with Scotland, Wales, France, Ireland in the years to come. Gives everyone something to plan for and build off.
  15. jenson

    Samoa Squad

    Brilliant squad, and great for international rugby league to have a team with a realistic chance of knocking over a tier 1 nation. The Tongan squad is great too. I'm all for notions of loyalty and patriotism, but in an increasingly mobile world where 'nationality' is increasingly convoluted, Rugby League is acknowledging this complexity and allowing representation of diverse heritages. It might be borne out of necessity - even desperation - to get better competition at the top level, but it might also be a point of difference in the competitive sporting landscape and help these lower tier nations build competitive, interesting RL identities.