Fiji series likely

Normal, Sports

The National, Friday 26th April 2013

 THE Papua New Guinea Residents XIII will play two games in July against the Fiji Bati Residents in Fiji.

That was announced by Fiji National Rugby League general ma­nager, Tomi Finau, who said the Fijians would play the Residents XIII and Tonga as part of preparations for the rugby league World Cup in the United Kingdom later in the year.

PNG Rugby Football League president Don Fox yesterday said plans for the Kumuls-Fiji Bati Residents series were still at the negotiating table and no dates or venues had been confirmed. 

Fox said talks were still going on between PNG and Fiji rugby league officials and the matches (two at least) had been “penciled in” as a lead-up to the World Cup. He said the PNGRFL would make a statement in the coming days after the PNGRFL board met tomorrow in Port Moresby. 

Fox said the sticking point in discussions between the two nations was who would host the series. 

PNG last hosted the Bati in 2011, when the Fijians drew the two-game series after surprising the home side 24-12 in Mt Hagen, only to be thrashed 26-0 a week later in Port Moresby in a sometimes spiteful clash.  

Finau told the Fiji Sun this week they were now working on finalising the dates of the matches.

“The Papua New Guinea Residents are coming over for a two-match tour, while the Fiji Residents will fly to Nukualofa for the battle against Tonga,” Finau said.

He said all parties had agreed July was the best month for the games.

Fijian development manager and Fiji Bati assistant coach, Joe Rabele welcomed the matches, saying it would be an important build-up phase for locally-based players in all three countries.

Rabele said the Fiji Residents final trial would be at Churchill Park, in Lautoka, on Saturday.

“The squad will be divided into two teams and they will play as the curtain-raiser to the Fiji Secondary Schools Rugby League grand finals,” he said.

Rabele said from the trial they would select 20 players for the Fiji Residents squad to take on the Australian Fijians in the Battle of the Bati on September 20.

“From there we will select the Fiji Bati squad to the World Cup,” he said.

But Rabele said after the trial they would not close the selection door.

“We will still keep a look out for potential players. At the same time the players in the squad will keep on working hard to keep their World Cup hopes alive.”

Rabele said he had confidence in locally-based Fijians.