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Test matches postponed due to coronavirus

Officials are committed to each Pacific nation playing at least one Test this year after postponing the mid-season Oceania Cup fixtures involving New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation decided at an emergency board meeting on Thursday that there was too much uncertainy caused by the impact of current and fast-changing restrictions on sport, travel and public gatherings to continue with the June 20 Tests.

New Zealand had been scheduled to host Tonga, with Samoa and Cook Islands to play in a double-header during the NRL's stand-alone representative weekend.

The APRL board believed that the postponement of the mid-season Oceania Cup matches may assist the NRL by freeing up the June representative round weekend should they require extra flexibility in scheduling.

Plans are being considered to play Tests in October-November, with Oceania Cup fixtures involving New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea already scheduled.

"There are still a lot of moving parts, but this is the prudent way to go, and the best option to ensure all nations due to participate in Oceania Cup can play at least one international this year," APRLC chair Sandis Tsaka said.

In addition, Australia is scheduled to host the Kiwis on October 17, while the ARLC is considering the viability of the end-of-season Kangaroo tour.

If the Kangaroo tour is scrapped, Australia may be asked to take part in a revamped Oceania Cup.

The Kiwi Ferns were also due to play a mid-season Test against Fetu Samoa on June 20 but that has also been postponed.

The NZRL is in discussions with the APRLC regarding potential postponement options and will continue to liaise with industry bodies, government agencies and playing groups to determine the best course of action going forward.

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“With the recent announcement on mass gatherings and the unpredictability of this pandemic, the safety and well-being of our players, staff and supporters remain a priority," NZRL CEO Greg Peters said.

"We are also very conscious of the current demand on some of our players due to the travel restrictions in place which we will be taking into full consideration going forward.

“Even if restrictions were to be lifted before the event date, it still is not feasible to undertake the work required now to deliver matches in June amid the current uncertainty.

"The best-case scenario is our calendar is postponed, depending on what the NRL season looks like the back end of the year, but of course, we cannot guarantee anything at this stage.

“We are in unfamiliar and unknown territory; collectively, we are all feeling the widespread impact of this pandemic but rest assured, we will be exploring every possible option.”

IRL southern hemisphere general manager Jeremy Edwards said: "We are grateful to the Rugby League Players' Association (RLPA) for their ongoing support of Oceania Cup, and for acknowledging the importance of these fixtures for a large contingent of the playing group,"

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