Cook Islands have been playing International Rugby League for over 30 years with their first match being against Niue in 1986. The game was played in Rarotonga with the Kukis winning 22-8.
The small island nation participated in the the 1995 Emerging Nations tournament which they won after defeating Ireland in the Final.
They are currently placed 23rd in the official IRL rankings and have qualified for three out of a possible six World Cups that they’ve been eligible for.
In June 2019 they met South Africa in a World Cup qualifying match and walked away with a 66–6 victory, their biggest ever win. They then went on the meet the United States in a play-off match where they overcome the Hawks 38-16 and booked their place at the 2021 World Cup in England.
The current side has a great blend of youth and experience heading in to 2021 that when comes together, creates a formidable unit. You’ve got the likes of Steven Marsters, Troy Dargan, Kayal Iro and Marata Niukore providing a young core that could lead the team to long lasting success, then you have experienced players in Alex Glenn, Brad Takairangi, Dominique Peyroux and Anthony Gelling bringing stability and a sense of calm in big game situations.
There are also many other players who are eligible to represent the Kukis that could pledge their allegiance to the Cook Islands before the 2021 World Cup.
These players include Queensland representative Dylan Napa, Kenny Edwards and New Zealand Internationals Zane Tetevano, Jordan Rapana, Esan Marsters, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Joseph Manu.
Here is how the Cook Islands could lineup with a full strength squad:
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
2. Steven Marsters
3. Esan Marsters
4. Joseph Manu
5. Jordan Rapana
6. Brad Takairangi
7. Troy Dargan
8. Zane Tetevano
9. Aaron Teroi
10. Dylan Napa
11. Kenny Edwards
12. Alex Glenn (c)
13. Marata Niukore
14. Anthony Gelling
15. Dominique Peyroux
16. Kayal Iro
17. Zeb Taia
18. Brody Tamarua
19. Adam Tangata
20. Journe Pua
In order to put a team together such as above, we would have to see a similar commitment from eligible players as we’ve seen from the Tongan players in recent years. It is most certainly possible tho, particularity during a World Cup year.
If the Cook Islands can get their strongest players to commit they will have every chance of finally making it past the group stages of the tournament after three unsuccessful attempts.
Regardless tho, it’s going to be great seeing them there and they will no doubt be very entertaining to watch.