Rugby League: Tonga Invitational games ruled as official 'tests' despite suspension

Tonga's upcoming games will be treated as normal test matches by the International Rugby League, despite protests from the country's suspended board.

The IRL has confirmed to AAP that Tonga's scheduled matches against Great Britain and Australia will be sanctioned international games, even though they have been labelled an invitational team.

"The Tonga Invitational XIII is being treated exactly the same as the Tonga national team in an attempt to maintain continuity for players, fans and opponents during the period of suspension of the national governing body," a statement said.

The confirmation comes after the suspended Tonga National Rugby League board labelled the Invitational XIII a 'rebel' side that should not be given test match status in a strongly worded statement a fortnight ago.

The IRL suspended the TNRL's membership last month, after it lost support of the star-studded playing group and the country's interim Prime Minister.

"This cannot be called a Tongan representative team," said TNRL boss George 

"The games cannot be regarded as bona fide test matches - it's as simple as that - and these players are not representing Tonga.

"They are part of a rebel team that should be called the 'Woolf Pack', but they can't be passed off as a Tongan representative side.

"They can't wear our colours, use our logos or take advantage of any of our intellectual property."

Coach Kristian Woolf named a full-strength line-up for Saturday's match against Great Britain at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.

Players Andrew Fifita, Jason Taumalolo and Michael Jennings had all threatened to boycott the World Cup Nines and both test matches, unless changes were made, including Woolf's reinstatement.

Meanwhile, Great Britain have had an interrupted preparation for Saturday's test, after being evacuated from their accommodation at Auckland's SkyCity International 
Convention Centre, when the roof caught fire.

Forward Tom Burgess told Radio Sport Breakfast the team had 20 minutes to evacuate the building, as the fire burned through an estimated 85 percent of the rooftop.

Alternative accommodation was organised and training schedules changed, while the Lions also spent a night in the same hotel as the Tongan team.

Both had dinner at the same restaurant on Tuesday night.

"We were on one side of the restaurant, they were on the other," Burgess said. 

"I was worried, I thought they were going to start doing a haka."

Join us at 8pm Saturday for live updates of the Tonga Invitational XIII v Great Britain rugby league test.