25 Aug 2016

Sport: Fiji rugby league keen to give locals more opportunities at test level

11:18 am on 25 August 2016

Fiji is hoping to secure a rugby league test against the United States later this year to accelerate the development of their local players.

The Fiji Bati were 26-12 winners against Canada at the weekend in Hawaii with an entirely locally based squad.

It comes a week after the Residents team defeated Tonga on home soil.

Fiji NRL Chief Executive Officer Timoci Naleba said beating the full Canadian team was a big confidence boost for their local players.

"After this game, most of them said we are ready to play other international matches, even though we are not going to play New Zealand and Australia and Samoa but at least we can even play the US team, maybe some time sooner before the World Cup, and all residence players should represent Fiji in playing against USA," he said.

Fiji Residents take on Tonga in Suva.

Fiji Residents take on Tonga in Suva. Photo: Fiji National Rugby League

Naleba would like a handful of local players to be a part of their Rugby League World Cup squad next year, alongside their Australia-based stars, and said the more opportunities they get at the top level the better.

"USA is ranked tenth and we are ranked seventh so if we give our local players to that particular game it would clearly help us actually identify local players that can play for the Bati team in the World Cup 2017...The boys know how to play - they are gifted, they are talented - but it's their exposure, other little things are important as well. We'd like to take them out more - now that we have Canada we would like to take them and play USA and also we play a game at either New Zealand or Australia early next year."

Timoci Naleba said because Fiji and USA are in the same World Cup pool next year he needs to speak to World Cup CEO Andrew Hill before approaching USA about hosting them later this year.

Fiji will also play a test against Toa Samoa in October, where they will also be able to call on their NRL stars.