Southern Hemisphere Representative Round details revealed

Representative Rugby League will return to New Zealand this year, as the international game takes a large step toward getting back to normal in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Kiwis will face Tonga in international fixtures for both men and women in Auckland at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday 25 June. There will also be two other Pacific Tests in Campbelltown involving Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Cook Islands, the second State of Origin game in Perth and a women’s State of Origin clash in Canberra in this year’s representative round.

Women’s Origin will kick off the weekend on the Friday night at GIO Stadium in Canberra, with the men’s match at Perth’s Optus Stadium on the Sunday night of June 26.

The Kiwis’ clash with Tonga will be the first elite Rugby League fixture in New Zealand since 2019 after the New Zealand Warriors’ relocation to Australia from the start of COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is great to be able to give the players from the Pacific nations time together ahead of the World Cup. We are also really excited to have the chance to kick start and rejuvenate international Rugby League in the Southern Hemisphere after the impact of the pandemic,” International Rugby League Chairman Troy Grant said.

“There has been very little opportunity to play international matches for more than two years and we know how passionate the players from the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga are about representing their nations.

“We are very grateful to the ARLC, NRL, clubs and each of the nations involved for their support and contribution towards what is an important and significant weekend for international Rugby League.”

ARL Chairman Peter V’landys said the Commission had “made it clear that growing international Rugby League would be a priority and we are delivering on that promise”.

“Representative Round will provide a return to the excitement and national pride that Test matches produce,” he added.

“The Pacific Test matches will be vital for these nations as they prepare for the World Cup later this year and importantly, for our fans, a chance to watch their heroes live in their national colours. The passion of the Pacific Nations and their fans is something unique to Rugby League.

“This is part of a long-term plan to grow the international game in conjunction with International Rugby League and member countries. We’ve seen with the growth and success of Tonga in recent years and we want to capitalise on the potential depth of our Test playing nations.”

The Southern Hemisphere Programme

Friday 24 June Women’s State of Origin, GIO Stadium, Canberra

Saturday 25 June New Zealand v Tonga (men and women), Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Saturday 25 June Samoa v Cook Islands and PNG v Fiji, Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney

Sunday 26 June State of Origin II,  Optus Stadium, Perth

New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters is hoping to see a massive crowd for the first major Rugby League game in New Zealand for three years.

“We encourage everyone to make their way to Mt Smart come June 25 to break the crowd attendance record for a women’s Test and celebrate the return of international Rugby League to New Zealand shores after some challenging years,” he said.

“To celebrate Matariki (Maori New Year) weekend with an international Test double-header that unites our fans and communities in celebration is special.”

New Zealand Warriors will play their first home game for three years in New Zealand when they take on Wests Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday 3 July.