The inaugural Pacific Championships will be staged across four weeks in three different countries in a smorgasbord of international rugby league to cap off the 2023 rugby league season.
World Cup champions Australia along with New Zealand, Toa Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea will feature in the men's tournament – which kicks off in Townsville on Saturday – while the women's tournament features Australia alongside the Kiwi Ferns, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands.
What is the Pacific Championships?
The Pacific Championships is a long-term strategy for the ARLC with the aim of promoting the international elite game in a dedicated window, growing equity in the exciting period post Grand Final, building more cultural competency within our game and fans and encouraging players to play for their respective nations.
2023 is the first year that the Pacific Championships will take place with seven competing nations across two pools in both men’s and women’s matches.
- Men’s Pacific Cup – Australia, New Zealand, Samoa
- Men’s Pacific Bowl – Cook Islands, Fiji, PNG
- Women’s Pacific Cup – Australia, New Zealand, Tonga
- Women’s Pacific Bowl – Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, PNG
What you need to know out of the Week 1 Pacific Championships teams
How does the competition work?
The men's Pacific Cup sees the three highest nations compete against each other with the men's Pacific Bowl a competition between the three lower nations.
Within the men’s Cup and Bowl competitions, each team plays each other once, with the top two ranked teams making it through to the respective Final.
Year on year, the make-up of the make-up of the Pacific Cup and Bowl will change depending on world rankings – giving an opportunity for those teams in the Pacific Bowl to enter the Pacific Cup and entice the higher ranked teams to hold their spots.
The women's Pacific Cup competition works as the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns play each other four times over the next two years (twice each year) with the third match being alternate with a Pacific nation. In 2023, that fixture is the Kiwi Ferns v Tonga.
The women's Pacific Bowl competition includes two Test matches in 2023 with the aim to increase competitive of women's fixtures through increased opportunities.
When is each team playing?
Saturday, October 14 at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- Australia v New Zealand (women) at 6.00pm AEDT
- Australia v Toa Samoa (men) at 8.10pm AEDT
Sunday, October 15 at Santos National Football Stadium, Port Moresby
- Samoa v Fiji (women) at 1.45pm AEDT
- PNG v Cook Islands (men) at 4.00pm AEDT
Saturday, October 21 at Eden Park, Auckland
- New Zealand v Tonga (women) at 1.45pm AEDT
- New Zealand v Toa Samoa (men) at 4.00pm AEDT
Sunday, October 22 at Santos National Football Stadium, Port Moresby
- PNG v Cook Islands (women) at 1.45pm AEDT
- Fiji v Cook Islands (men) at 4.00pm AEDT
Saturday, October 28 at AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Australia v New Zealand (women) at 6.00pm AEDT
- Australia v New Zealand (men) at 8.00pm AEDT
Sunday, October 29 at Santos National Football Stadium, Port Moresby
- PNG v Fiji (men) at 4.00pm AEDT
Are there finals?
The Men's Pacific Cup final will be played at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday, November 4 with Australia, New Zealand and Samoa in contention. The Men's Pacific Bowl final will be played at Santos National Football Stadium in Port Moresby on Sunday, November 5 between either PNG, Cook Islands or Fiji.
There is no final for the women's Pacific Cup or Pacific Bowl competitions.
What's different about this competition?
The matches will all be sanctioned by the International Rugby League – this means that they contribute to the nation’s world rankings and will impact whether teams qualify for the RLWC 2026.
All matches will be played according to the NRL and NRLW laws and interpretations of the game. This means that the women’s matches for the Pacific Championships will be played at 35 minutes per half, which supports the heat conditions that people will be playing in, in order to prioritise player welfare. It allows those players who have played all year to have continuity in playing conditions that they have experienced in the NRLW or women's State of Origin.
Who are the players to watch?
The Kangaroos side captained by James Tedesco features nine members of the side that downed Samoa in last year's World Cup Final in England. Tedesco is playing in his 11th Test match and chief playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans his 19th, while Dylan Edwards, Kotoni Staggs, Selwyn Cobbo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow make their Kangaroos debuts in the opener against Samoa.
Big game specialist Stephen Crichton shifts to five-eighth for Samoa and will partner Test debutant Daejarn Asi in the halves. Crichton's fellow Panthers Brian To'o and Spencer Leniu are also on show while Junior Paulo will lead the way up front alongside newcomers Stefano Utoikamanu and Gordon Chan Kum Tong.
For the Jillaroos, Knights superstar Tamika Upton makes her Test debut at fullback as part of a star-studded backline that includes World Cup winners Jess Sergis, Isabelle Kelly, Julia Robinson, Tarryn Aiken and Ali Brigginshaw.
Ali Brigginshaw the player of the match
Georgia Hale, Apii Nicholls and Mya Hill-Moana will look to lead the way for the Kiwi Ferns with Raecene McGregor steering the ship from halfback. Broncos powerhouse Mele Hufanga is joined in the centres by Knights star Shanice Parker while Cronulla's rookie sensation Annessa Biddle makes her Test debut on the wing and Ashleigh Quinlan gets her first cap at five-eighth.
Try-scoring machine Alex Johnston and Lachlan Lam lead the way for the Kumuls while the Fijian squad includes attacking weapons in Maika Sivo and Mikaele Ravalawa along with impressive rookies Jahream Bula and Sunia Turuva.
Turuva claims rookie of the year in 2023
How can I watch the games?
Tickets for the Pacific Championships matches in Melbourne are available from $20 for NRL Club Members and $25 for the general public.
Visit nrl.com/tickets to secure your seat at the games!
All matches will be also televised on the Nine Network and Fox Sports and can be streamed on Kayo and 9Now.