FNRL targets more local players for world cup

FIJI National Rugby League chief executive officer Timoci Naleba is adamant more local players will be part of the Rugby League World Cup team next year.

Recent events have led to FNRL’s change of tactics particularly with the increasing unavailability of overseas-based players who are legible to play for Fiji.

“NRL has dominated the regulation of the Pacific Test. Most of our number one players were pulled by coaches with very limited authority by NRL. Though NRL holds the game, the clubs almost always dominates the decision making. So the only way I think we need to go around that is to have the local boys get ready, prepare the team here and take the team from Fiji.

“I am not saying that we separate ourselves completely from Australia or New Zealand because they also have very good players and the competition is competitive and the standard is there. We will need to be benchmarking with them consistently, but what I’m trying to get at is making sure we reward our local players,” he said.

In realising this goal, Naleba yesterday announced five matches between the Fiji Residents and International clubs with a Test match scheduled against Samoa in October. The Fiji Residents begin their campaign that could potentially see players transition into national representatives with the Country Rugby League Club on June 7. On June 24 a further two matches have been scheduled with two touring teams from the New South Wales Cup competition.

The matches serve as a trial and test basis on Fiji’s eligibility to host high calibre matches.

Other matches include a warm-up with Tonga in August before both teams travel to Hawaii for the annual Ohana Cup where the Fiji residents will play Canada. On October 8 the Bati will play Samoa in a Test in Apia, marking the island nation hosting its first league Test match as they celebrate thirty years of the sport’s existence. The final Residents match scheduled for 2016 will be against the Junior Lions on November 6.

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