Pacific nation Test coaches call on NRL for more support to promote international rugby league

PACIFIC nation Test coaches claim their teams are capable of one day beating powerhouses like Australia if the game is developed properly.

Samoa coach Matt Parish almost led his team to three stunning upsets during last year’s Four Nations tournament and it has given their Pacific rivals Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji hope they could compete with the world’s elite in the coming years.

on Saturday night they will showcase how far they have all come since the World Cup with a double-header at Cbus Super Stadium, with Samoa meeting Tonga and Fiji taking on PNG, barring harsh weather conditions.

It is the first time the NRL has scheduled a full weekend of internationals and put trophies at stake for the developing nations.

Parish believes the gap to the Kangaroos or Kiwis will close much quicker if his side can play more international games and have greater access to eligible players.

Island players receive little to no match payments for Test appearances, with some opting to contest Sunday’s NSW City and Country clash rather than play an international.

The Courier-Mail has been told that at least one current Origin star had expressed a desire to play for his Pacific Island nation but could not afford to risk jeopardising the $90,000 he could earn in Origin payments.

Parish had a simple answer on how the gap can be closed on the top tier nations.

“Competition. It’s as simple as that,’’ Parish said. “We need to play games and compete. And obviously getting the players that are eligible to play.

“I don’t think the Samoan rugby league can do it without the help of the NRL.

“For our nations to develop we need to play regular once a year or twice a year competition against the leading nations.

“I can’t see Italy or France or anyone like that competing with the leading three nations but I can certainly see the pacific islands competing.”

Meninga said including a Pacific nations double-header in the rep schedule was a crucial first step in helping to bridge the gap to the top tier countries Australia, New Zealand and England.

Introducing the PNG Hunters into the Intrust Super Cup has enhanced the development of the Kumuls and Meninga urged officials to press ahead with plans to introduce a Fijian team into the NSW Cup.

“For the development of the game in the Pacific, Fiji having a team in the NSW Cup would be a significant benefit,’’ Meninga said. “The same goes for Samoa and Tonga and I think that is what we should be thinking towards.

“(Rep weekend) is a pretty good opportunity for everyone in international rugby league to pick their rep sides and play against each other.’’

Fiji coach Rick Stone said he had recommended after the 2013 World Cup that Fiji enter a team into a second tier competition in Australia. He said his team would be far more competitive in the future if they had full access to their catalogue of stars.

“Young players probably think they need to play in that (City-Country) game rather than a Test match to be possibly selected for NSW,’’ Stone said.

“If everyone realises the Pacific Test has a decent status of its own we would get more players playing and showcasing their talents on this weekend.’’