Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Photo by Andrew Cornaga / Photosport NZ
New Zealand Rugby League is looking to follow the trend set by their Australian and English counterparts by introducing a second national team.
Both Australia and England have used their second sides, the Prime Minister’s XIII and England Knights to give players on the periphery of the national team a chance to represent their country on a smaller stage to see if they are ready for promotion to the Kangaroos or Three Lions.
The Prime Minister’s XIII made their post-pandemic return last September with an emphatic 64-14 win over the Papua New Guinea Kumuls with the Knights also winning their last outing in a World Cup warmup match against Scotland where they secured a 28-4 victory.
A second New Zealand national team could become a reality soon as in a recent interview with the NRL’s official website Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire backed the concept.
“It’s definitely something I am keen to get up and running ASAP. We want to be able to get more Kiwis playing in the jerseys on the pathway to playing at the highest levels,” said Maguire.
“We need to show the pathway to come in and give players an experience of what the culture of New Zealand league is all about.
“The more we can connect our Kiwi players to those pathways the better, I am a big advocate of that.”
New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters also commented on the possible initiative and the impact that would have on the Junior Kiwis squad which has not played a game since 2019.
“I doubt whether it would happen this year, but certainly on our radar for future thinking,” Peters told NRL.com.
“Depending on whether we can have a New Zealand ‘A’, or whatever you want to call that other team, that would also impact if we see the Junior Kiwis as a U-20 side rather than a U-23 side.”
While a second national team is something that NZRL is considering it seems that it is not a priority issue for the organisation at this point but is a concept that we could see come to fruition sooner rather than later.
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