A one-off mid-year test between New Zealand and England in Denver makes no sense to local fans who would rather watch the Kiwis play a World Cup re-match against Tonga on home soil.

The proposed plan to stage a test in Denver during the June 22-24 stand-alone representative weekend is being touted as an opportunity to promote rugby league ahead of the 2025 World Cup, which will be held in the US.

Promoters Moore Sports are behind the initiative and the idea has the backing of the cash-strapped NZRL and the support of England.

Read more: Warriors have major concerns over Denver test

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However, the proposal looks set to be knocked-back by NRL clubs after the idea received a less-than-favourable response when it was raised at last week's NRL CEO's conference.

The Warriors last week expressed concerns about players embarking on the hit-and-run long-haul trip and are seeking a full run-down from the promoters on their travel and insurance plans and the impact playing at the highest-altitude city in the US could have on their stars recovery and ability to back-up and play days later.

Fans of both teams would love to see a re-match between the Kiwis and Tonga in Auckland. Photo / Photosport.
Fans of both teams would love to see a re-match between the Kiwis and Tonga in Auckland. Photo / Photosport.

Kiwis fans are also wondering why the NZRL are so keen to be involved and why they weren't campaigning just as hard to arrange what is a more logical idea: booking a showdown against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium and locking that in as an annual fixture for the next two or three years.

That's not to say New Zealand league fans are totally opposed to a test going ahead in the US at some point, but the timing of this game seems wrong when urgent attention is needed to help the game – which is struggling at all levels - on these shores.

A Kiwis-Tonga match would be a guaranteed sell-out and the profits – which likely wouldn't be dwarfed by any payments from a Denver match - could go a long way to helping the NZRL and Tonga RL.

The NZRL are also desperately in need of some positive PR and arranging a Tongan test could have seen them curry favour with disillusioned fans, who until last year's failed World Cup campaign had not seen the Kiwis play at home since 2014.

Tonga drew sell-out crowds to three World Cup games in Hamilton and Auckland. Photo / Photosport.
Tonga drew sell-out crowds to three World Cup games in Hamilton and Auckland. Photo / Photosport.

In explaining why a test against Tonga couldn't possibly be arranged, the NZRL argued that the Pacific Island side was already in line to play Samoa in Sydney - despite the fact Tonga made it clear their preference was to play the Kiwis.

Instead, the NZRL were pursuing a test against Fiji – but that idea seems to have fallen by the way-side with the Denver test taking precedence. So plans can be changed after all.

The fact the NZRL would also have to cover the travel costs of Tonga's players and staff and match payments for both teams was offered as another reason why it couldn't be done.

There would be a financial risk of course but I'm sure there would be a promoter or sponsor out there willing to cover the costs, given Tonga drew sell-out crowds in three World Cup games in Hamilton and Auckland. Television broadcasters on either side of the Tasman would want in as well.

The Sunday Telegraph reported the NZRL hope the Denver test could provide a chance to lure back Tongan-World Cup defectors Jason Taumalolo, David Fusitu'a, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, and Manu Ma'u back to the Kiwis.

The NZRL reportedly hope the Denver test could help them lure the likes of Tongan World Cup-defector Jason Taumalolo back to the Kiwis. Photo / Photosport.
The NZRL reportedly hope the Denver test could help them lure the likes of Tongan World Cup-defector Jason Taumalolo back to the Kiwis. Photo / Photosport.

If true it adds further weight to the belief they ignored Tonga's requests to play a mid-year test in the hope those players would choose to come back into the fold – though the NZRL last year denied that was the case.

It's understandable the Kiwis would want the likes of Taumalolo back on deck – but what happens if Tonga play an end of year test against Australia in Hawaii? Will those players still want to join the Kiwis for their November test series against England?

From a New Zealand perspective, there are more obvious and important things that could be achieved locally and a lot about the Denver test that just doesn't add up.

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