Internationals Polynesian All-Stars



Marshall and Hayne set for Pacific debut against England
Brad Walter
March 13, 2011
A PACIFIC ISLAND all-stars team including the likes of Benji Marshall, Jarryd Hayne, Michael Jennings and Manu Vatuvei is set to play England in Sydney or Auckland under a proposed new international schedule for next year.

The match was endorsed at a meeting during the week between Australian and New Zealand officials, who have invited England to tour at the end of next season, when there is no Four Nations tournament.

With the international calendar bereft of fixtures in the year preceding the next World Cup, to be staged in Britain in 2013, officials believe there is an opportunity to revive traditional Lions tours, including midweek matches.

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It is also a chance to expand the successful all-stars format, currently featuring the Indigenous All Stars and the NRL All Stars teams, to include a Pacific Island team.

The concept is understood to have the backing of Federal Sports Minister Mark Arbib, who believes all-stars matches are the perfect vehicle for the government to promote health, education and welfare programs in the represented communities.

Former New Zealand and Samoa star Nigel Vagana, who works for the NRL as an education and welfare officer, has canvassed players of Pacific Island heritage, and told Thursday's meeting in Sydney they would be keen to play.

''We have to discuss it with the RLPA [Rugby League Players' Association] because it is our agreement with them that there is no international matches at the end of 2012 but Nigel expressed a view at the meeting that the players were very keen to play under the Pacific Island banner,'' NRL marketing manager Paul Kind said.

''By having an all-stars team, the players would not have to choose between Australia or New Zealand and the country of their heritage.''

Among the players who could line up for a Pacific Island all-stars team are: Hayne, Petero Civoniceva, John Sutton, Lote Tuqiri and Akuila Uate (all Fijian heritage ); Jennings, Vatuvei, Fuifui Moimoi, Willie Tonga and Feleti Mateo (Tongan); Frank Pritchard, Jeremy Smith, Roy Asotasi, Steve Matai and Jerome Ropati (Samoan); Marshall, Issac Luke, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Adam Blair (Maori); and Neville Costigan and Paul Aiton (PNG).

''You would have a gun team, and it would be good for the game out in the western suburbs of Sydney along with development in the Pacific Islands,'' Vagana said. ''No other sport in Australia can do this because AFL doesn't have the number of Polynesian players, and while rugby union probably does, there isn't the depth we have in the NRL.''

Kind said that even if the game were played in Auckland, the team would spend some time in camp in Sydney promoting the game and doing work in the local Pacific Islander communities.

It is proposed that England would play one Test each against the Kangaroos and Kiwis, as well as mid-week matches against the likes of Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.