By Richard Cowley, Date: 14/3/13
Since 1998 the early season Test match between the Kangaroos and Kiwis has taken place anywhere between April and June. It is the only time during the regular NRL season fans get to watch the best players from New Zealand and Australia battle it out in the test arena.
According to various reports 2013 is going to be a little different!
On Friday the 19th of April Australia will host New Zealand in the Nationâ€™s capital. The game will continue a great sporting rivalry between two very proud sporting nations. Both teams will use the match as bragging rights going into this yearâ€™s rugby league world Cup in England and Wales.
But in a sign that the international rugby league landscape is finally changing for the better, rugby league fans will also be able to catch another test match the following day.
During the 2008 rugby league world cup (RLWC) a new rivalry was born that matched the passion of State of Origin. Just under 12,000 rugby league fans packed Penrith Stadium to watch the ground shake as Samoa 20 defeated Tonga 12 in a closely contested match. The match itself was full of pacific passion and big hits which would even make non rugby league fans stand up and take notice.
On April the 20th 2013 rugby league fans will get a taste of that rivalry and pacific passion that was last seen on our TV screens back in late 2008. Samoa is going to take on the might of Tonga once again at Penrith Stadium.
The notion that these two pacific nations will meet once again should pack the stadium to the rafters. This is what international rugby league has been crying out for, a new rivalry for followers of the game to get passionate about. A new rivalry to showcase the great game of rugby league to the world.
Australia and New Zealand will no doubt get the main media attention. But Tonga v Samoa will get the fans feeling every tackle and every run-up. The game itself is set to be a classic.
The main hope is that the RLIF stick to their guns and make the match between Samoa and Tonga a permanent fixture in the April rugby league Calendar. An International Rugby League Weekend in April is a good start but there is plenty of room for improvement. In years to come the same weekend will hopefully see other international teams from around the World join in the action to celebrate what multicultural diverse game rugby league has become.
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