SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 23: Jason Taumalolo of Tonga is tackled by the Samoan defence during the 2018 Pacific Test Invitational match between Tonga and Samoa at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 23: Jason Taumalolo of Tonga is tackled by the Samoan defence during the 2018 Pacific Test Invitational match between Tonga and Samoa at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Pacific blockbuster in the works for Utah desert

It will be billed Sonny Bill v Taumalolo in the Utah desert.

A wealthy American businessman has started planning a rugby league Test match between fierce Pacific rivals Tonga and Samoa in the US after next season.

The proposal has progressed so quickly that both nations have been asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal Tongan football manager Scott Clark has travelled to America, along with NRL player agent Chris Orr, to discuss the game.

There have even been suggestions that Tonga would fly to San Francisco or Canada to play Australia's Kangaroos - travelling en-route to England - after the Utah Test.

US investor Paul Langi Kinikini, who has a Tongan background, wants to sell the match as a collision between two giants - Sonny Bill Williams and Jason Taumalolo.

Kinikini made his wealth through a telecommunications and fibre-optic business. He moved from Tonga to the US as a kid.

Williams could pledge his allegiance to Samoa. Picture by Brett Costello.
Williams could pledge his allegiance to Samoa. Picture by Brett Costello.

The game has tentatively been booked for Rio Tinto Stadium, a 20,200-seat stadium in Sandy, Utah, home to Major League Soccer club Real Salt Lake.

Kinikini flew Clark and Orr to Utah to show the pair around Salt Lake City's finest training facilities. Utah has a population of three million people with about 40,000 being of Pacific Island descent.

Both nations are baulking at signing the MOU due to the internal politics plaguing Tongan Rugby League.

A recommendation from the investigation has finally been reached and sent to the Rugby League International Federation board.

Samoa and Tonga are reluctant to agree to the match until the NRL, RLPA and RLIF sanction the Test. The three governing bodies have the power to prevent players from contesting the game.

Plans for the Test have all been verbal until now with no official contracts having been drawn up.

Samoa hope to secure Williams - whose father John has Samoan heritage - for Test matches over the next two years.

Players know of the plan but are dubious after some weren't paid on time following a game between England and New Zealand in Denver during June last year.

Some players are sceptical after difficulties with the Denver Test. Photo by Russell Lansford/Getty Images.
Some players are sceptical after difficulties with the Denver Test. Photo by Russell Lansford/Getty Images.

One source close to the negotiations said: "Everyone is a little sceptical and would want to see the money upfront, especially after what happened in Denver."

Another possible hurdle is that the RLIF has yet to finalise its off-season schedule for late 2020.

It appears Tonga has committed to playing New Zealand - along with Samoa against England - during the June representative round next year, meaning any game in Utah would have to be played after the season.

A third international during the 2020 representative round is likely to pit Papua New Guinea against Fiji.

Kinikini is well aware of the intense and passionate rivalry between Tonga and Samoa.

UTAH RUMBLE

Tonga v Samoa, Salt Lake City, Utah

Venue: 20,000-seat Rio Tinto Stadium, home to Major League Soccer club, Real Salt Lake.

US investor: Paul Langi Kinikini

Australian conduits: Scott Clark, Chris Orr.

Scheduled: After 2020 season

Approval required: NRL, RLIF, RLPA

Stars on show: Tonga - Jason Taumalolo, Michael Jennings, Andrew Fifita, Will Hopoate, Daniel Tupou, Siosiua Taukeiaho; Samoa - Sonny Bill Williams, Anthony Milford, Marty Taupau, Junior Paulo, Jamayne Isaako, Jorge Taufua



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