England to play Fiji at Rochdale

ROCHDALE will host an England World Cup warm-up match against Fiji on Friday, October 15.

The clash at the Crown Oil Arena will form part of the League 1 club’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

It comes just eight days before England open the tournament by taking on Samoa at St James’ Park, Newcastle on Saturday, October 23.

Fiji’s first World Cup match, against holders Australia at Hull’s KCOM Stadium, is also on October 23.

The Bati, currently captained by St Helens’ Kevin Naiqama, pictured, have reached the last four of the last three World Cups, in 2008, 2013 and 2017.

Hornets have a special relationship with Fiji after signing four players from the Pacific island in the 1960s – Orisi Dawai, Josefa Levula, Voate Drui and Liatia Ravouvou.

Since then, Mike Ratu snr, son Emon and grandson Mike jnr have all represented Rochdale, while the current squad includes forward Joe Taira.

The town hosts the second-largest Fijian population in the UK after London and staged a 2013 World Cup match in which Fiji beat Ireland 32-14 in front of a sell-out 8,872 crowd.

Hornets’ previous Athletic Grounds home staged internationals between England and New Zealand in 1908 and Great Britain and Australia in 1930.

England coach Shaun Wane, whose side face the Combined Nations All Stars in a mid-season international at Warrington on Friday, June 25, said: “The Fiji fixture will be a vital part of our preparations for the World Cup.

“I’d like to thank Rochdale Hornets and the Fiji National Rugby League for making this happen.

“The Bati are a very talented side individually and collectively, and I wish them well at the World Cup.”

Rochdale chief executive Steve Kerr said: “We’re delighted to announce our flagship event as part of our 150th anniversary celebrations.

“To welcome Fiji back to Rochdale and continue our cultural links with the island nation is an absolute privilege and honour.

“Supporting Shaun Wane and his England team in their preparations ahead of the 2021 World Cup is simply incredible and the icing on the cake.

“I’d like to personally thank Ralph Rimmer and the RFL, Don Natabe (Fijian CEO), the World Cup team and the International Rugby League for helping to make this event possible.

“We now look forward to showcasing the game under the lights on a Friday night at a sell-out Crown Oil Arena.”

Due to the current circumstances, there are just 2,000 tickets available until further notice.