Rugby league: State of Origin must add NZ, Pacific Islands teams - Sir Graham Lowe

Rugby league's State of Origin series should be expanded to include both a New Zealand and a combined Pacific Islands team, says Kiwis coaching great Sir Graham Lowe.

Lowe, who coached Queensland to an Origin win in 1991, says the NRL should reject proposals for looser eligibility rules and instead add two further teams to the iconic interstate series.

On Sunday, NSW coach Brad Fittler called for those rules to be bent to allow the likes of Tonga star Jason Taumalolo into the traditional NSW-Queensland series.

But Lowe believes the competition has recently suffered from it's more flexible approach to eligibility, and incorporating both New Zealand and the Pacific Islands would be the ideal way to regenerate fan interest.

Under the breakaway 'Super League' regime, a New Zealand side contested the 1997 Origin series, losing to both Queensland (26-12) and NSW (20-15).

"Resource-wise, those Island nations would find it hard to do it on their own," Lowe told AAP. 

"But an Island team that encompassed the Islands, that would be a start."

Rugby league in the Pacific has undergone a huge surge in popularity since the 2017 World Cup, sparked by Tonga, whose newly star-studded side consistently competes with 'Tier One' nations, while drawing unrivalled crowds.

"It could be a combination of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. There's certainly enough firepower there.

"I would see a new representative window altogether. There's easily enough talent from New Zealand and the criteria for Origin could become far more stringent."

More emphasis should also be placed on test matches in a post-coronavirus world, Lowe added, which he said had almost become an after thought.

"If it's going to start again, it's got to start with a fresh look," he told AAP. "The biggest risk to international football is the fact it's being disrespected by the clubs. 

"The clubs haven't allowed any window for it to be played."