Cooks to join PNG, nations for 2020 Cup


THE Cook Islands are set to replace Lebanon in next year’s mid-season Tests and will join Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji in the 2020 Oceania Cup.
The newly created Oceania Cup began last Saturday night, with the Kiwis defeating Tonga and Samoa beating PNG in round one matches, and will continue at the end of this season when Australia and Fiji join the tournament.
The Kangaroos will host the Kiwis at WIN Stadium on October 25 and meet Tonga a week later as part of a triple-header at Eden Park in Auckland.
However, Australia is touring Britain at the end of the 2020 season so the Kangaroos can’t play in the Oceania Cup and their place will be taken by Cook Islands, who defeated South Africa in a World Cup qualifier last Friday.
The mid-season Pacific Test has been absorbed into the Oceania Cup and Samoa played PNG as part of a triple-header at Leichhardt Oval last Saturday night, which also featured an invitational match between Fiji and Lebanon and Fiji’s first women’s Test against Oil Search PNG Orchids.
Despite much more being at stake in the Samoa-PNG match, the event was largely overshadowed by a dispute between Lebanon players and their governing body and it is unclear whether the Cedars will be invited to play during next year’s stand-alone representative weekend.
England Knights, Vanuatu and Niue have been mentioned as possible opponents.
New Zealand is again expected to play Tonga, with the winner of this year’s Oceania Cup Pool B between Fiji, Samoa and PNG to be promoted to join them in Pool A next season.
Cook Islands will join Pool B and all six nations are expected to play mid-year and at the end of the season, with some 2020 Oceania Cup matches likely to be in North Queensland and possibly PNG.
RLIF CEO Nigel Wood told last week that it was hoped Oceania Cup matches could also be played in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga after the 2021 World Cup.
Cook Islands are hoping to join their Pacific neighbours in the World Cup. – NRL