Sport: Glenn, Gelling boost Cook Islands for RLWC Qualifier

The return of experienced duo Alex Glenn and Anthony Gelling headlines the Cook Islands rugby league team selected to take on the United States in next weekend‘s World Cup qualifying match in Florida.

Brisbane Broncos second rower Glenn was a late withdrawal from their win over South Africa in June, while Warrington centre Gelling hasn‘t played a test since 2015.

Cook Islands captain Alex Glenn has played for the Brisbane Broncos since Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Head coach Tony Iro said they would add some welcome experience and quality to the Kukis squad.

“Alex is obviously our captain and real passionate about the jumper,” he said.

Anthony Gelling represented the Cook Islands at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

“He was really disappointed in missing out on that South Africa game – copped a medial ligament injury playing for the Broncos the week before. He‘s actually already in the States with family so he‘s going to meet us over there.

“And I really like Gello, he‘s a great team man. Anyone who saw the (World Cup) Nines a few weeks ago knows what he can do on the footy field. He‘s a handy player and he hasn‘t played a lot of footy this year because of injury but he‘s itching to pull on the jumper again next week too.”

Iro admitted the loss of Tepai Moeroa to rugby union is a big blow but said there is still a lot of talent in their travelling squad.

“The big one for us is Tepai Moeroa – he‘s gone to the Waratahs so he‘s unavailable. He was outstanding both on the field and as a leader with us that week [against South Africa] so we will miss him,” he said.

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“But we do have guys of the quality like Alex Glenn, who‘s going to play next week, and Dom Peyroux, who‘s had an outstanding season at St Helens and winning the Super League title up there, and also Adam Tagata, who‘s just signed a Super League contract with Wakefield.

“He finished the year with Wakefield and had a really strong season. The other one is Anthony Gelling who‘s had an injury disrupted season but I thought he was really strong in the Nines. He‘s signed with Warrington so that experience should counter losing Tepai.”

The Cooks Islands performed strongly at the World Cup Nines in Sydney last month, beating the Tonga Invitational side and Fiji Bati either side of a narrow defeat by Toa Samoa.

Kayal Iro celebrates scoring against Tonga at the Rugby League World Cup Nines. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2019 www.photosport.nz

Tonga‘s recent success has really sparked the international game and their historic wins over Great Britain and Australia are something for other Pacific nations to aspire to, Iro said.

“All the second tier nations would love to replicate what Tonga has done and obviously they‘ve got a handy squad with plenty of world class players at the moment but if you look at Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and even ourselves we‘re starting to build a decent base of senior pros in and around the ranks,” he said.

“We‘d love to be a part of the World Cup in a couple of years where we can hopefully inspire some more kids to pull on our green jumper and maybe some big names from the tier one nations as well.”

Cook Islands squad:

Kayal Iro, Paul Ulberg, Reuben Rennie, Anthony Gelling, Steven Marsters, Brad Takairangi, Troy Dargan, Sam Mataora, Aaron Teroi, Jounre Pua, Dominique Peyroux, Marata Niukore, Moses Noovao-Mcgreal, Vincent Rennie, Brody Tamarua, Tiven Arona, Adam Tangata, Uiti Baker, Alex Glenn (c).

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