SHAUN Wane’s England will play Fiji at the Crown Oil Arena in Rochdale on Friday, October 15 as preparation for the World Cup, which starts at Newcastle eight days later.
The game will form part of Rochdale Hornets 150th anniversary celebrations.
Across the years, scores of Oldhamers and/or ex-Oldham RLFC players have worn the red, white and blue of the Hornets with pride and several coaches have left Watersheddings to take charge at the old Athletic Grounds.
Joe Warham, Norman Harris and John Noon, to name but three, played at Oldham and coached at Rochdale, while Graham Starkey (coach) and Arthur Walker (chairman) moved in the opposite direction.
As Hornets chairman, Walker was the man largely responsible for starting the club’s connections with Fiji when he placed an advert for players in the Fijian Times after returning from a Great Britain tour Down Under as assistant manager.
Cousins Orisi Dawai and Joe Levula replied — and the unlikely partnership between a Lancashire mill town and a South Pacific island was forged.
Rochdale today has the largest Fijian community outside London.
Shaun Wane said:
“This game will be a vital part of our World Cup preparation. I’d like to thank Hornets and Fiji for making it happen.”
Hornets chief executive Steve Kerr said:
“To welcome Fiji back to Rochdale and to continue our cultural links is both an honour and a privilege.”
World Cup 2021 opens at St James’s Park, Newcastle on Saturday, October 23, with the opening ceremony, followed by England v Samoa.