World Champions to Play in Doncaster
Saturday 13th July 2013
Rugby league's world champions, New Zealand, will be coming to Doncaster to play the Cook Islands in a warm-up game at the Keepmoat Stadium
"We wanted a decent hit-out under English conditions before the World Cup," says the Kiwis' manager Tony Iro. "There's a chance some of our guys won't have played for 6-7 weeks and we don't want to be underdone going into a tough first World Cup match against Samoa.
"We know that our boys, especially those that miss finals football, will want the opportunity to impress and I'm sure the Cooks guys will be in the same boat."
Both the Kiwis and the Cook Islands were looking for a warm-up game before the main tournament, but were restricted in their choice of opponents, due to RLWC regulations around not playing teams in your pool or that you were likely to meet in later stages.
Discussions between the two countries - which were helped by Tony Iro's position with the Kiwis and his brother Kevin's role as the Commissioner of Cook Islands Rugby League - really came together when Carl Hall at Doncaster Rugby League Club got involved.
"Carl is the sort of guy who makes things happen," says Tony. "We're sure he and his crew at Doncaster will do a great job as hosts."
Hall, a former Junior Kiwi, is now the CEO and owner of the Doncaster club. He stayed on in the town after staring as a player there, alongside fellow New Zealanders like Tony Kemp, Vila Matautia, Terry Hermanson, Dane O'Hara and James Leuluai plus many more.
Hall said: "I'm proud to announce that not only international rugby league is coming to Doncaster - but the reigning champions of the world will be playing at the Keepmoat Stadium.
"After Doncaster missed out on a World Cup game I was very determined not to let it go after the hard work the people of the town had put in to try and hold a game or host a nation at this year's tournament.
"Me being me I thought I will do my best to get something here for the people of Doncaster and I've been working tirelessly to organise this game and have been knocked back from a few different organisations.
"I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason as I feel to get the world champions and my home nation at the Keepmoat is just unbelievable and can't wait to see them in action.
"I would like to thank Kevin Iro who is like a big brother to me and is the top man for the Cook Islands and his brother Tony Iro who is the equivalent for the Kiwis - without these two the game wouldn't be going ahead."
Kevin Iro said: "I'd like to thank Carl for putting this fixture together and we're very excited to be playing the world champions prior to our World Cup campaign.
"The nucleus of our team has been together since qualifying for the World Cup in 2009 and since then, many of our players have gone on to play in the NRL and Super League.
"Players like Isaac John, Zeb Taia, Keith Lulia, Tinirau Arona and Zane Tetevano will be relishing the thought of playing the Kiwis as well as younger squad members like Tupou Sopoanga and Sam Mataora.
"We're ranked 14th of the 14 teams at the World Cup, so we couldn't have asked for a better build up to our campaign by testing ourselves against the title holder."
Match day tickets will go on sale on Monday 15th July at the Keepmoat Stadium's ticket office. Rugby league fans can take advantage of a fantastic early bird offer by purchasing a ticket at a reduced price before Tuesday 1st October.
Early bird prices are £20 for adults, £15 for concessions, £5 for children (5-16) and under 5's go free. After the October cut-off date each category of ticket will go up by £5. For more information or to book a ticket please call the ticket office on 01302 762576.
Hall added: "I hope the people of Doncaster and the rugby league family will support this game and let's show the organisers why we should've been a host nation or at least had a world cup game here at our fantastic stadium - let's fill the Keepmoat."