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Plan for Pacific Islands team in Super Rugby gathers pace

Plan for Pacific Islands team in Super Rugby gathers pace

29/11/2017, Papua New Guinea, Multi Sports, Papua New Guinea Facts (Publication), Article # 25004403
A Pacific Islands-based Super Rugby team could be created next year under plans which would revolutionise the sport in the region.
The proposal, supported by World Rugby, is to create a new club side in the southern ­hemisphere’s flagship domestic tournament to stop the talent drain from the islands.
It is hoped that a squad made up of players from Fiji, Samoa – England’s opponents tomorrow – and Tonga would encourage the best talent produced by the Pacific Islands to remain there, and so represent their nations’ teams in international rugby.
“We are optimistic,” Mark Egan, head of competitions and performance for World Rugby, told iNEWS. “The Super Rugby option is something that will be seriously looked at. It’s on our agenda.”
An independent feasibility report, with World Rugby input, on how a Pacific Islands team could be incorporated into Super Rugby is due to be completed this year.
The report will then be sub­mitted to the Pacific Islands Working Group and SANZAAR, the body which runs Super Rugby, in the first quarter of 2018. World Rugby then hopes that an agreement is reached next year so that the franchise could begin playing matches from the 2021 season, after the current broadcasting contract ends.
“If it is the right thing to do for the world game and the Pacific ­Islands you can be sure that we will be looking at every way – including financially – that we can possibly support it,” Egan said.
The new team would cost around £7.5m a year to run, which looms as the biggest obstacle. “It has to make sense from a rugby and commercial perspective,” Egan added. “The model would require private ­equity, government funding and sponsor support.”
World Rugby is likely to be able to give significant financial backing to the project, but, “the franchise would have to show that it will be able to operate in a financially sustainable way over an agreed period of time”. The finances of the three individual unions – Fiji, Samoa and Tonga – would also have to be protected.
Fiji, the Pacific nation with the best infrastructure, would be expected to be the home base for the squad. But it is hoped that some matches could be played in Samoa and Tonga.
The prospect of a Super Rugby team was welcomed by Fe’ao Vunipola, the chief executive of the Tonga Rugby Union. “I would support it wholeheartedly,” he said. Vunipola believes that it would lead to “more chance of the boys staying and living near home”.

Melbourne to host Leeds in World Club Challenge

Melbourne to host Leeds in World Club Challenge

14/11/2017, Papua New Guinea, Multi Sports, Papua New Guinea Facts (Publication), Article # 24824345
NRL Premiers Melbourne Storm will host English Super League Premiers Leeds Rhinos in the 2018 World Club Challenge to determine the world's best rugby league team. 

The clash, to be held on Friday 16 February at AAMI Park at 8pm, will be only the third time the World Club Challenge has been played in Australia; with Brisbane and Sydney the other cities to have hosted the showcase event.

Melbourne Storm and Leeds Rhinos have already met in three World Club Challenge deciders; 2008, 2010 and 2013, with Storm victorious in 2010 and 2013 when the match was played at Headingley Carnegie Stadium.

This will mark the first time Leeds have played for the World Club Challenge outside the UK, looking to claim their fourth world title with their last coming in 2014 against Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. This will be Storm's fifth appearance on the world stage, having claimed victories in 2000, 2010 and 2013.

NRL Head of Strategy David Silverton was pleased for fans that the event was finally locked in to the rugby league calendar.

"It's important for the growth of both the NRL and international game that major events like this go ahead each year, so we're glad to have ensured this important match takes place in what is a shortened pre-season post the Rugby League World Cup," Mr Silverton said. 

"To have the match take place on home soil for the first time in four years is an added bonus for Australian rugby league fans too.

"A special thank you must go to all those involved from the Super League, Melbourne Storm, Leeds Rhinos and Channel Nine for joining forces and committing to make this showpiece event happen."

In making today's announcement at AAMI Park, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Major Events, John Eren said the match would provide a great opportunity for interstate and international visitors to experience some of what Melbourne has to offer in one weekend.

"The World Club Challenge is right at home in the sporting capital. We can't wait to get behind our Storm and help make them the world's best rugby league team.

"It's yet another coup for the sports capital that will bring more visitors to Victoria – boosting businesses and supporting local jobs."

Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy said the Club was thrilled to be hosting the World Club Challenge on home soil.

"There's no better venue or city to host a game that decides the world's best rugby league team than AAMI Park and Melbourne – Australia's sporting capital.

"It will be fantastic to see rugby league take centre stage again at AAMI Park, having hosted record Storm crowds and the Rugby League World Cup in 2017.

"I know our Storm members and fans as well as the sports enthusiast will come out to support their Premiership winning team and to see some of the world's best players take the field.

"Our football department is looking forward to the challenge of being back playing for the World Club Challenge trophy and testing themselves again the current Super League Premiers."

It was also announced this morning the match will be broadcast live on Nine in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and simulcast nationally on Fox Sports.

Nine's Director of Sport, Tom Malone, said; "We're really excited about this match – the two best rugby league teams in the world squaring up against each other for the title of champions. Wide World of Sports will be the best place to catch all the action – live and free and in HD."

Tickets are on-sale to Storm and Leeds members today at with public on-sale to follow at 10am Tuesday 21 November.

World Club Challenge
Friday 16 February 2018
Melbourne Storm v Leeds Rhinos
8pm, AAMI Park
USA Rugby League wants more international matches

USA Rugby League wants more international matches

14/11/2017, Papua New Guinea, Multi Sports, Papua New Guinea Facts (Publication), Article # 24822857
​United States of America Hawks coach Brian McDermott says his players need to be exposed to more international rugby league games abroad rather than the usual matches the team plays against Canada and Jamaica.
He made the statement after the team suffered its third straight loss in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup in a record 64-0 score line against Papua New Guinea at the Oil Search National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.
“USA only plays two games a year against Canada and Jamaica. It keeps the wheels turning but it doesn’t really challenge the players especially the domestic players back in the United States.
“To get them to get ready for something at the end of the year is something getting used to and has been a rude awakening for some of them,” McDermott said.
Chairman of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) Nigel Wood, who witnessed the loss in Port Moresby, said it was something they were aware of and would ensure they had enough fixtures in between before the next World Cup in England.
But he also said that countries like the USA and Canada have super league clubs and should use that as pathway to international fixtures.
“It is an obligation on the international federation to now start populating the years between World Cups with meaningful fixtures geographically-based fixtures like the Pacific Islands or whether it’s in Europe or involves more inter hemisphere travel.
“Certainly, United States of course and Canada are emerging rugby league nations and there are some clubs playing in those countries that are in the British Super League Competition.
“So there are opportunities for those nations to interact with other leagues but if we can get a fuller program that allows those nations to play regularly against nations of similar standing than the game will progress as a consequence and we are very aware of that,” Wood said........Post Courier
Fiji book RLWC finals with Italy thrashing

Fiji book RLWC finals with Italy thrashing

11/11/2017, Papua New Guinea, Multi Sports, Papua New Guinea Facts (Publication), Article # 24791168
The Fiji Bati have booked a spot in the Rugby League World Cup quarter-finals following a hard-fought 38-10 victory over Italy at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. 

The two nations had never met before Friday and they made up for lost time, producing a match that had everything a rugby league fan could ask for. 

Breathtaking tries, wonderful individual performances, huge hits and three controversial sin-bins were just some of the highlights of the fiery clash that for a long time was a lot closer than the scoreboard suggests. 

Needing to win by 46 to progress to the quarter-finals, it was always going to be a tough ask for the Italians and they did not help their cause in the early stages. 

Trailing 12-4 at half-time, Italy simply had to be the first to score in the second half and they did so in spectacular fashion, scoring the try of the tournament in the 42nd minute. Mark Minichiello started the play in his own half, offloading to Mason Cerruto who kicked the poor pass forward and regathered the ball. Cerruto then threw a wild inside ball to Nathan Milone 40 metres out from the try line, with Milone punting the ball at full force to send it high into the sky. The ball landed at the try line, bouncing over Fiji winger Marcelo Montoya's head, and Milone then regathered and crossed under the black dot to cut the Bati's lead to two.

But just as it seemed that Italy would hit the lead, Fiji steadied, with second-rower Brayden Williame breaking through to score in the 54th minute. Apisai Koroisau could not convert, leaving the Bati up by one converted try. 

Fiji extended their lead in the 60th minute when winger Suliasi Vunivalu darted from dummy half and ran 65 metres to score. Koroisau added the extras to give the Bati a 22-10 lead.

Vunivalu scored his second minutes later, diving on top of a Taane Milne soccer kick to put the game to bed. Milne then showed he could do it all with the boot, converting from the sideline to give his side an 18-point lead with 15 minutes to play. 

With the commentators still talking about his previous effort, Vunivalu made it three tries in eight minutes, streaking down the sideline to put Fiji up by 24 and take his individual try-scoring tally to eight for the tournament.  

The margin hit 28 when Montoya crossed in the corner with five minutes to go and that is how it stayed, with Fiji running out 38-10 winners in an entertaining match-up. 

It may have been a blowout win, but the Bati's dominant second-half performance was a far cry from their disappointing first 40 minutes.  

With so much on the line Fiji understandably started the match nervously, struggling to hold on to the ball and lacking the composure that had seen them start the tournament undefeated.

It took a 55-metre run from Montoya to settle Fiji's nerves, and if it was not for Italian five-eighth James Tedesco's try-saving tackle Montoya would have opened the scoring. 

All of Tedesco's hard work was undone seconds later when second-rower Jayden Walker flopped on Montoya in an attempt to slow down the play the ball.  The 21-year-old was penalised for his professional foul and sin-binned, reducing his side to 12 men after 12 minutes.

Vunivalu almost made Italy pay immediately, but his try was disallowed for an obstruction in the lead-up. 

Italy then marched their way down the field, and the class and experience of veteran Terry Campese shone through, with the 33-year-old throwing a beautiful long ball to put Josh Mantellato over in the corner and give the Azzurri a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.

The Bati hit back eight minutes later, with captain Kevin Naiqama the beneficiary of a fortuitous Jarryd Hayne kick that bounced passed Italian fullback Cerruto and into Naiqama's hands for a four-pointer. Koroisau converted successfully to give his side a 6-4 lead. 

The game escalated in the 34th minute when Italian hooker Joe Tramontana threw a punch on a prone Vunivalu that resulted in an all-in melee. Tramontana was sent to the sin-bin for the punch and Hayne was also sin-binned for running in and escalating the melee.

Such an explosive first half was always going to end with some sort of highlight and Bati halfback Henry Raiwalui provided it, dummying from close range to score under the posts on the stroke of half-time. Koroisau kicked truly to give Fiji a 12-4 lead heading into the break.  

Fiji 38 (Vunivalu 3, Naiqama, Raiwalui, Wiliame, Montoya tries; Koroisau 3, Milne 2 goals) defeated Italy 10 (Mantellato, Milone tries; Mantellato goal) at Canberra Stadium. Half time: Fiji 12-4. Crowd: 6733. 

By Eden Richards‌, Queensland Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌
PNG Kumuls veteran Paul Aiton to play last test match

PNG Kumuls veteran Paul Aiton to play last test match

09/11/2017, Papua New Guinea, Multi Sports, Papua New Guinea Facts (Publication), Article # 24767564
Paul Aiton may be playing his last home game in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup on Sunday against the USA Hawks but says he still gets excited of being part of the Kumuls every time.
“It has been a long career but definitely this is the last game on PNG soil it seems like it’s going really fast.
“It’s still the same feeling since the first time I debuted for the Kumuls we do the jersey presentations every time before a test or Prime Ministers XIII and you still get butterflies and when you get the jersey its gold,” Aiton said.
He said he was thankful for the opportunity to play one more World Cup for the Kumuls, especially being among the young players has been great.
“So many you skillful players in the team but I am thankful Michael Marum and the board for giving me this opportunity to be in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
“All the boys are great and that’s the good thing about being a part of PNG Kumuls I have been in many camps over my career and I have never felt more at home at ease and that comfortable when I came back to PNG,” Aiton said.
He said he will continue with his third season in the Super League and thanked PNG for the support throughout his career.
“I play with a team called Catalan Dragons in the south of France and we play in the Super League with next year being my third season.
“I am really enjoying it there and we are rebuilding the club and would like to play next season and hopefully put a good year together and see what happens, I don’t see myself going anywhere else but being there.
“On behalf of the rest of the team I would like to thank the country for all your support you know we can’t even go to vision city without being stopped and asked for photos.
“But thats very humbling and I don’t mind at all and it will all end one day, like it will for me and I thank PNG for the support throughout my career I played for Kumuls even before I played any first grade football in the NRL and I have always been supported everywhere I go and I always feel the support and love,” Aiton said. Post Courier/NRL Photo