Mal Meninga's Kangaroos are in talks to play their first international against league minnows Jamaica at the end of the year.
Desperate for a hitout before the three-Test Ashes series starts against England on October 31, Meninga said league's ultimate underdogs, who have qualified for next year's World Cup, were one of the teams Australian officials are considering.
Jamaica’s Michael Lawrence tackles England Knights player Joe Greenwood during last year’s clash at Headingley.Credit:Getty
Known as the Reggae Warriors, Jamaica defeated the US to qualify for their first World Cup and in October played in front of more than 7000 people at Headingley –a large local West Indian community belted steel drums the entire 80 minutes – against feeder team the England Knights.
NRL boss Todd Greenberg and chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo have travelled to England for the World Club Challenge and will spend time trying to gauge the interest from various clubs and countries who have indicated they are keen to play against Australia on October 24.
The spare weekend falls between the Test against New Zealand in Townsville and the first Ashes Test against England in Bolton.
Toronto Wolfpack's Australian owner David Argyle has already gone on record about wanting the Kangaroos to travel via Canada to play against Sonny Bill Williams and his side in North America.
Many of Jamaica’s players play in England in the Super League and lower divisions.Credit:Getty
Meninga said France, England Knights and Super League clubs St Helens, Wigan and Hull FC had all been mooted. But Meninga says an historic maiden clash with the Caribbean nation isn't out of the question.
"We have to go through all the options, but Jamaica are keen," Meninga said. "A lot of the Jamaican guys play over in England and there are a lot of West Indians living in England. They've come through the Cup qualifiers really well and it's good to see another nation make the World Cup.
"There is a lot interest there. They played a few months ago and got more than 7000 people to their game. It's just a matter of working out whether it's financially viable, where we play it and all those things."
The Super League grand final is on October 10, a week after the NRL grand final, meaning the players at English clubs will still be battle hardened for any showdown with Australia.
Working for Jamaica is England dual international Jason Robinson, who has Jamaican heritage, and told the local press before the English Knights clash: "I do believe we will be the most talked about nation in the World Cup. Jamaica will bring the colour, the carnival, the music and the atmosphere, but we’ll also make people talk, not just about participating, but actually getting results on the field. We’re excited about what’s to come."
Jamaica beat Canada and the US at the end of 2018 to qualify for the World Cup, then knocked over the US again in a mid-year friendly last year. Most of their players are based in England and play in the Super League and lower divisions.
According to the Rugby League Jamaica website, the first domestic competition kicked off on the island in 2005, a Jamaican team played against a travelling West Yorkshire Police team the following year and the nation played its first international against the US in 2009.
Meninga is excited about the Ashes series, which last took place in 2003. There were initial hopes the Kangaroos could also play mid-week games, but concerns about player welfare have curtailed that.
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