England’s ground-breaking Test match against New Zealand in Colorado has been given the go-ahead and will be the first of three meetings in the United States over the next three years.
The match between re-appointed head coach Wayne Bennett’s England and the Kiwis will be staged at the Mile High Stadium in Denver on Saturday, June 23, with a local 2pm kick-off.
The international - which has been organised and funded by Australian promoter Jason Moore to raise the profile of rugby league ahead of the 2025 World Cup in the United States - will go ahead despite opposition from some NRL clubs concerned over player welfare.
New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) chairman Reon Edwards said: “We have worked with the Rugby Football League (RFL) and the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) on this, agreeing to play a New Zealand-England Test in the United States each year for the next three years.”
The match will take place on a blank weekend in Super League which was set aside for the Pacific Test series in Sydney and a stand-alone State of Origin match.
It has the unqualified support of Bennett, a strong advocate of the international game whose England side travelled to Sydney last summer to take on Samoa.
For us to grow stronger as a group and build on the progress of last year, these are the games we need to be involved in. We saw the benefits of taking on Samoa mid-season ahead of the World Cup.England RL head coach, Wayne Bennett
He said: “For us to grow stronger as a group and build on the progress of last year, these are the games we need to be involved in.
“We saw the benefits of taking on Samoa mid-season ahead of the World Cup.
“We hear people talking about growing the game and this is the perfect opportunity to take two of the world’s elite nations over to a country that loves sport and entertainment.
“Denver will be a good fit for the game - they have popular American football, basketball, baseball, hockey and football sides, so it seems there’s a real appetite for sporting events and to experience something new in this city.”
The Mile High Stadium, which has a capacity of 76,125, is home to 2016 NFL Super Bowl champions the Denver Broncos and is 5,280 feet - or exactly a mile - above sea level.
Amid reports that clubs will face fines for refusing to release players, organisers say they will bring together medical experts to work through difficulties of playing at high altitude and will work closely with the Australia-based Rugby League Players Association who have raised their concerns.
RFL interim chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “Successful World Cup tournaments and the entry of Toronto Wolfpack into the UK competition have increased the popularity of the international game and we are all keen to take advantage of this and grow our sport across the world.
“Moore Sports International is well aware of how innovative the sport is and offered an exciting opportunity to take our players and showcase their talents and our game to an important sporting market.”
It will be England’s first game in the USA since they played their hosts in an unofficial Test in Orlando in October 2000, a game which featured current England team manager Jamie Peacock and assistant coach Paul Wellens.
The NZRL has also announced that its three-Test series in England in the autumn will be followed by a one-off Test against France on Saturday, November 17, at a venue still to be determined.