Rotorua, get set for a Tongan invasion – and some of the biggest names in the NRL.

The geothermal city could host a blockbuster test match next month between Tonga and New Zealand Māori.

If it goes ahead, the game would be staged a week before Tonga's historic clash with the Kangaroos in Auckland on October 20.

Tonga were arguably the most popular team at last year's World Cup, selling out matches in Hamilton (twice) and Auckland, on their memorable run to the last four.


Mate Ma'a Tonga boast some of the best players in the sport, including Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo, Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita and Warriors winger David Fusitu'a.

Depending on Kiwis' commitments, the Māori side could feature the likes of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Greg Eastwood and Bodene Thompson.

The Herald on Sunday understands that plans are well underway for the match, which would engender a lot of interest.

There are some concerns about the short lead time, but if the financial model stacks up, it's expected the game will go ahead.

The Māori could draw from a large reservoir of talent, with New Zealand depth in the NRL at an all time high.

There's also the possibility that Kiwis players not involved in the test against the Kangaroos in Auckland on October 13 could be used in the Rotorua clash, to get valuable game time ahead of the three test tour of England.

Such a match would attract a lot of interest, and also be a boost for the sport in this country and around the region.

It would mean Tonga will have three test matches in 2018, a far cry from earlier this decade when they sometimes went 12 months without assembling, especially in non World Cup years.


It would solidify their status as a burgeoning force in the world game.

The proposed match would be just as significant for New Zealand Māori.

The last time Aotearoa Māori faced a fully fledged international side was in 2010 against England.

The match was played ahead of the Four Nations and the Māori team, featuring Kevin Locke, James Tamou, Russell Packer and Kevin Proctor drew 18-18 with the Lions in Auckland.

"For me, as a spokesman for Māori rugby league, it's been way too long," coach Mark Horo told the Herald earlier this year. "We need to be playing more often, especially with the talent out there."

Horo's message was heeded by the NRL, with the rejigged All Stars game next February.

That sees a New Zealand Māori selection face an Australian Indigenous team, which will revive interest in the composite team.

If the fixture is successful, then the annual event will grow year on year, and there may be room for a New Zealand Māori side to be included in the mid year representative window.​