Cook Islands will be all out to avenge their “painful” loss to USA Hawks at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, in a do-or-die clash at Jacksonville, Florida today.
The match which kicks off at 12 noon is the final qualifying match for the 2021 World Cup.
The two teams last met at the 2013 event in which the Hawks defeated the Kukis, costing the national side a place in the quarter-finals.
The loss is still fresh in the minds of the players, most of who made their debut for the country in that World Cup.
Today they are ready to put their bodies on the line to get them through to the next stage.
The Kukis missed out of the last World Cup after going down to Tonga in 2015.
Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said the team wants to get back to the top level competition at any cost.
“Losing to USA in the World Cup 2013 was a painful experience and they also participated in the World Cup 2017, we didn’t. So that is the level of this USA team and we are not taking this lightly,” Carlson said.
“The loss to Tonga in 2015 really added salt to the wound so the last four years has really been focus on rebuilding our national squad for this very event.”
Carlson said their vision had always been to compete in the World Cup.
He said it was critical to qualify for the event to remain competitive at the international level.
“It was four years ago since Tonga knocked us out of the World Cup qualifying so some lessons learnt there. We regrouped and staked out a strategy to this very day so here we are with only one purpose in mind a victory for the Cook Islands.”
Cook Islands will be led by Brisbane Broncos’ Alex Glenn. The side will also have professional players Parramatta’s Brad Takairangi and St Helens’ Dominique Peyroux, new South Sydney signing Steven Marsters, Warrington’s Anthony Gelling and Wakefield’s Adam Tangata.
Cook Islands – 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).