Red-hot ?test? for islands
By GREG WHITE
TWO red-hot favourites will contest the international rugby league matches at BCU International Stadium tomorrow night.
An exciting Fiji Bati combination will face Cook Islands in the main 'test' match at 7pm while Malta is strongly favoured in the curtain-raiser against Japan at 5pm.
Fiji coach Arthur Katinas held trials in Sydney on the weekend to choose the final 17-man squad.
Dee Cees Nadera Panthers captain Iowane Divavesi will lead the international team before Semesa Cadrakilagi of Saru Dragons steps up as skipper for the Orara Valley Sevens.
"This match is very important as a warm-up ahead of the World Cup next year," team manager Rusiate Ratakele said.
"It will be a stern test as Cook Islands draw many players from the New Zealand competition."
The sides last met on October 7 with Bati scoring a 40-4 victory.
Cook Islands have had an interrupted preparation as a squabble over the commencement date of their domestic league and union competitions has delayed selection of a touring party, with most players turning out in both rugby codes.
Japan are the first team to arrive, touching down in the city last night.
The Samurai learned their lesson from last year's clash and have been in the country since January 19 to acclimatise.
In 2006, the squad flew from sub-zero temperatures into heatwave conditions one day before the game and were no match for the USA Tomahawks.
Their last international start was a 54-18 loss to the USA on October 28.
Malta will be at full strength for what will be the final international played by captain Ben Sammut.
A side already bulging with class has been further strengthened after Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens released star forward Pat Galea for a one-off appearance.