The Kiwis will play a ground-breaking Test match on 23 June against England in Denver, Colorado, the first time the countries currently ranked two and three in world Rugby League have met in the United States.
Chair of the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) Reon Edwards said the Test is an important step for the code’s international development.
“Rugby League is making impressive strides in the United States and Canada. This Test match is an opportunity to showcase the highest level of our sport in the North American market, which has significant participation and commercial potential. NZRL has worked with the Rugby Football League and the Rugby League International Federation on this, agreeing to play a New Zealand-England Test in the United States each year for the next three years,” he said.
Denver’s storied Mile High Stadium, which has a capacity of 76,000 and is home of 2016 NFL Super Bowl Champions the Denver Broncos, will host the historic June Test match.
Kiwis stalwart Simon Mannering said: “I think it’s a great concept and one I wish was around five years ago when I was a bit younger. Growing our game internationally has to be a priority – think of the opportunities we could create for our game if it was a genuine international sport played all over the world.
“I know it’ll be tough for some NRL clubs to see the importance at first, but if we really care about the game, then I think it’s something we have to support. I definitely will.”
Another notable Test for the Kiwis will be Australia coming to New Zealand for the first time since 2014. From this year the ANZAC fixture will move to the end of the season, and alternate annually between Australia and New Zealand. A rematch of the Rugby League Women’s World Cup final between the Kiwi Ferns and the Jillaroos will feature on the ANZAC Test programme, together with the Junior Kiwis taking on the Junior Kangaroos. This is part of NZRL’s commitment to staging more games in New Zealand.
The three-Test series in England announced late 2017 will be followed by a one-off Test in France.
Recent Rugby League developments in North America include the Toronto Wolfpack, Canada’s first professional Rugby League team, winning the Rugby Football League’s third tier Kingstone Press League 1 title, gaining promotion in their inaugural season in 2017, and making a successful start to the 2018 in the Rugby League Championship. Success at that level will secure promotion to Europe’s top tier Super League. Several other North American clubs are contemplating similar moves.
In 2016 the 2025 Rugby League World Cup was provisionally awarded to North America, with the United States and Canada to co-host.
Kiwis’ 2018 Test Programme
Saturday 23 June 2018; Kiwis v England; Denver, Colorado, USA
Saturday 13 October 2018; Kiwis v Australia; Auckland, NZ
Saturday 27 October 2018; England v Kiwis; Hull, England
Saturday 3 November 2018; England v Kiwis; Liverpool, England
Sunday 11 November 2018; England v Kiwis; Leeds, England