Rugby League: NZ Rugby League considers taking tests to Tonga, with World Cup now looking doubtful

NZ Rugby League has confirmed it has started talks to play a test in the Pacific Islands - and Newshub understands it will be against Tonga. 

New Zealand and Australia have worn a verbal spray in the UK for withdrawing from this year's Rugby League World Cup, citing player welfare concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the unforgettable scenes from the last World Cup - staged in New Zealand and Australia - could return if this year's tournament is now postponed.

The Kiwis, Kangaroos and Tonga could all potentially play before the end of the year. 

"If the Australians are keen for it, we would be too," says NZRL chief executive Greg Peters. "We’re always keen to play Tonga."

That keenness could even see the Kiwis eventually travelling to the Pacific Islands too.

"I think that talk’s coming, to be quite honest," says Peters. "I think the respect rugby league pays to Pacific countries demands, at some stage, we should take matches to the Islands as well.

"We'd certainly be up for the conversations - they are in the embryonic stages."

Newshub understands, if a test against Tonga happens in October or November, part of the agreement will see a return fixture in Tonga within the next two years.

"I'm not sure what kind of facilities or if they have a stadium over there, but if they do, then why not," says Kiwis half Kodi Nikorima, one of the first players to pull out of the World Cup. 

"Why not take a game over there? If they could get it going, I'd definitely put my hand up for that."

It would be a massive chance to help grow the international game, which is a criticism levelled at the Kiwis and Kangaroos, after their withdrawal from this year's World Cup.

"For this decision to be made today, I've described it as a selfish and parochial decision," says British Rugby Football League chairman Simon Johnson.

Peters labels that criticism as simplistic, insisting that tournament organisers couldn't meet the health and safety requirements asked of them.

So NZ Rugby League is pushing for the tournament to be rescheduled next year, creating a window to play tests safely here in the meantime.

"Hopefully, we’ll be able to announce something in the near future," says Peters.