Almanac Rugby League – A rare weekend of international rugby league




International rugby league gets a post-NRL season outing this weekend with two mens’ Test matches (Australia v New Zealand and Tonga v Great Britain), a women’s Test (Australia v New Zealand), and a Junior representative game (Australia v France).


On Friday afternoon at 2.10pm, the Junior Kangaroos take on France in what, on paper, appears to be a lop-sided encounter. The Australian line-up features a full squad of NRL players including the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen, Kalyn Ponga, Brodie Croft, David Fifita, Victor Bradley and Angus Crichton – fearsome indeed! By contrast, the French line-up is a no-name team who, one hopes, will be able to provide some resistance. I know that sounds condescending – it’s not meant to – but the Junior Kangaroos team simply oozes class. Junior Kangaroos by plenty!


That game is followed by the Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns Test match at 4.40pm. The Kiwis will have a spring in their step following their upset win in last weekend’s Nines tournament; the Jillaroos will be out to reverse that result and ‘restore order’ in their role as current World Champions. Both teams are full of NRLW talent and I expect this to be a high quality encounter. Run your eye over the respective squads and you see potential match-winners everywhere. For the Australians, there’s Jessica Sergis and Isabelle Kelly in the centres, Ali Briggenshaw and Kirra Dibb in the halves, and the likes of Millie Boyle, Kezie Apps, Annette Brander and Hannah Southwell in the pack. The Kiwis boast Apii Nicholls, Honey Hireme, Charntay Poko and Raecene McGregor in their backline along with Annetta Nuuausala, Amber Hall and Georgia Hale in the forwards. It should be a cracker! My gut feeling says the Jillaroos but not by much, perhaps <6.


The Kangaroos v Kiwis mens’ Test match features a new-look Australian team and a recast Kiwi outfit. Benji Marshall gets the honour of leading New Zealand in what may be his international swansong. (But then we thought that might be the case in the Anzac Test earlier in the year.) Excitement machines Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Jamayne Isaako lead a talented, fleet-footed set of backs to complement the upfront muscle of Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Kenny Bromwich, Adam Blair and Brandon Smith. For the Kangaroos, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, Jack Wighton and Daly Cherry-Evans form a formidable set of backs behind the likes of Josh Papalii, David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner and Jake Trbojevic up front. Get ready for quite a rumble at the ‘Gong when these two teams clash! I like the look of the Australian pack; forwards win matches – therefore the Kangaroos by 7+.


The final game on Saturday evening at Waikato Stadium Hamilton, sees Great Britain confront a Tongan Invitational XIII. After ructions in Tonga’s administration, it’s hard to think they will be unaffected by the pre-match turmoil. But that might just be the motivation the Kau To’a need to prove their point in overthrowing the short-lived administration and reverting to the ‘old guard’ that had made such progress in recent years. They have talent to burn in Will Hopoate, Kotoni Staggs, Dale Tupou and Tuimoala Lolohea in the backs and Andrew Fifita, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Manu Ma’u and Jason Taumalolo in the forwards. Great Britain is almost Burgess-less except for Tom on the bench.However, they will field considerable experience in Lachlan Coote, Ryan Hall, Gareth Widdop, Josh Hodgson, John Bateman and James Graham. Expect another great forward battle to help decide this one. I have no confidence in my selection but, in the end, I’ll go with the Tongan Invitational side to get home by <6.


A weather forecast of temperatures in the high 30s around Sydney may see some modification to how tomorrow’s games are played. The added fatigue factor may well play into the hands of the smaller, more fleet-footed brigade within the various teams.


Twenty-four hours of enjoyment for rugby league diehards – enjoy!



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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

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