When England defeated Tonga at the home of Leeds Rhinos, the newly renamed AMT Headingley Stadium, to complete a series whitewash against Kristian Woolf’s men, the international scene looked to be in good shape.
Ahead of the 2026 World Cup, we saw New Zealand show that Australia are more than beatable defeating them 30-0 to claim the Pacific Championship after a terrific tournament showing the brilliance of teams like Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Fiji as well.
For months it had been reported that England would be taking on Samoa in a Test Series at the end of 2024. In fact, ever since the announcement of the Tonga series, Serious About Rugby League reported plans to meet Samoa in 2024 in a rematch of the 2022 World Cup semi-final.
These plans were routinely hinted at by numerous sources. At the Man of Steel awards Shaun Wane claimed that they would be playing Samoa in 2024 and this rhetoric was repeated again and again throughout the series against Tonga until Tongan coach Kristian Woolf told the English press not to be so sure.
This warning would prove to be legitimate with it being revealed shortly after those comments that Samoa had withdrawn from the series to play in the 2024 Pacific Championship which is believed to involve Tonga as well.
There have been suggestions that the comments from Shaun Wane making Tonga into the villains of the series helped prompt this decision to withdraw from the Samoa vs England series but that is perhaps making a mountain out of a molehill.
Nonetheless, questions are being raised about what next for England and it doesn’t sound like good news.
Serious About Rugby League contacted the RFL to ask about the situation and they suggested that it could be a while before any decision is made with limited options available.
There have been suggestions such as a series against the Combined Nations All Stars as well as a Yorkshire vs Lancashire series akin to State of Origin last year.
Meanwhile, some would prefer to see England take part in some sort of European Championship against the likes of France, Wales and Ireland.
Whatever decision is made, it seems a long way off with the RFL between a rock and a hard place.