Question marks over England and Tonga test series following Australian government’s $7 million announcement

International Rugby League met just over a fortnight ago in Singapore and then took to the media to confirm the introduction of a new international calendar with major changes for the World Cup going forward.

The international game has so often been the highlight of rugby league but also a rarity with fans lucky to see they four year cycle of World Cup complete.

Following the incredible success of the 2021 World Cup, hosted in autumn 2022, there was a major spike for the international game but the collapse of the 2025 World Cup in France led to major concerns.

It has now been confirmed that the 2025 World Cup will be delayed until 2026 and will be hosted by a nation in the southern hemisphere, whilst the IRL also provided an update on an international calendar.

That confirmed that there would be fixtures through until 2030 with the Tongan tour of England being among the first of those games, but there’s now been a major update to that.

Tonga will be one of six teams to take part in a six-nation Pacific tournament over the next two seasons, with the Daily Telegraph reporting that Australia are set to co-host the event.

The Australian outlet claim that under the current Anthony Albanese government ‘$7 million’ will be spent over the next two years to fund the tournament.

It will include Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands with games for the 2023 edition to be played in Australia, New Zealand and PNG between October 13th and November 4th.

PM Albanese said: “Geography makes us neighbours, but through sport we build strong and lasting ties across the Pacific family.”

It was confirmed that the competition will run for both men and women, a major boost following confirmation that from 2028 the women will have their own World Cup in a cycle separate from the men.

How the England and Tonga three match series scheduled with games on 22nd October, 28th October and 4th November will be affected is unclear but the three game series had been confirmed back in April and therefore precedes this current tournament’s announcement.

Another Australian publication, Zero Tackle, claim that Fiji will partake instead of Tonga in the 2023 tournament before Tonga replace Samoa for 2024, which would obviously allow Tonga to play the three tests against England.