Vanuatu Rugby League primed for Emerging Nations opportunity

Vanuatu Rugby League says the Emerging Nations World Championship is a chance for them to show how far they've come in a short space of time.

The Melanesian country have been drawn to play Hungary and Greece in Pool B and are one of a record eleven nations from Europe, Asia and the Pacific competing in the tournament.

"It's going to be a very tough pool but we're really looking forward to it though," said head coach Lionel Harbin.

"I think it's a great concept - this Emerging Nations World Cup gives these countries an opportunity to showcase rugby league and how far we've come in a short period of time so we're really looking for to it."

Vanuatu made its international rugby league debut against Greece six years ago and Lionel Harbin's side will finally have the chance to square the ledger.

"We have played Greece in an international. We actually went down to Greece but it was a very close-fought game. We're yet to play Hungary - this will be the first time we play Hungary at the tournament (and) it should be a tough two games."

"I don't know a great deal about them. Like us, they're both really growing the game of rugby league and trying to develop it in their countries," Harbin said.

"I'm assuming Greece will have a large population of Greek players based in Australia that are still eligible to play for them so I think they're going to be very tough. I'm not quite sure about Hungary though."

Lionel Harbin said while they are hoping to call on a few high-profile names they bulk of their team will be locally-based.

"We have got a few Australian-based players that we're hoping will make themselves eligible to play - one being (former Queensland and Australia representative) Justin O'Neill who's up at the Cowboys," he said.

"We've got James Wood who is our captain, who's played a lot of Intrust Super Cup (in Queensland) and he's very highly respected within our team but I'd say about 75 percent of our team would be domestic players.

"That's what we've really focused on: growing our home talent and growing our competition in Vanuatu. We have a good domestic comp in Port Vila...and we're starting to get a junior league happening and women playing the game as well so we're really focused on developing the game in Vanuatu.

"I think the best way for that is for them to come over here and experience this Emerging Nations World Cup. It's only going to better them as players and I think they deserve their opportunity to come over here (to Australia) and play."

Niue and Solomon Islands are the other Pacific Islands nations competing in October.

Niue will face Malta and the Philippines in Pool A, with the top two in Pool A and B to contest the World Championship.

Solomon Islands, who were outclassed 40-20 by Vanuatu in Honiara last year, are one of five teams in Pool C, that will compete for the Trophy and Bowl competitions, alongside those eliminated from the Championship.