The British and Irish Lions Rugby Union team is currently touring Australia. While Rugby Union in Australia might be a small sport that struggles to get a share of the spotlight, crowds have been good for their tour matches as Rugby Union fans come out of the woodwork and support the game.
Steve Mascord this week wrote that the Rugby League International Federation is currently looking to bring the Great Britain Rugby League team back together in 2015 for a tour of both Australia and New Zealand. The tour would include two tests against both Australia and New Zealand as well as mid week matches against as yet undetermined sides.
That sounds great, in theory, but I question the ability to sell a tour by the Great Britain Rugby League team for a number of reasons.
First of all, there is no way the current season set up in Australia will be changed in any way to accommodate a tour of any kind. The simple reason for this is that the NRL is getting paid in the vicinity of $300 million per year for the current season format we have in place.
There is no wiggle room during the current broadcast deal to change the season format unless broadcaster such as Channel 9 and Fox Sports were handed a proposal that they feel would make them more money. Would any amount of test matches against a Great Britain team do that? No.
That means that any Great Britain tour would have to occur at the end of the Rugby League teams, and that becomes a problem in itself.
By the time Great Britain started a tour of Australia and New Zealand, most clubs sides will not have played a game in at least 6 weeks. While games between club sides and international touring teams have been well supported in England in the past, I just don’t see Australian fans buying into the concept.
That leads me to think that Great Britain would be likely to play opponents such as Tonga or Samoa. I would make a lot more sense and give those countries a change to test themselves against an opponent they never normally get to play, but that brings me to the next concern I have…
What if Great Britain starts losing games leading up to a two test series against Australia? While English fans probably think that is out of the question it almost happened in 1999 when the Great Britain side narrowly avoided losing to the Burleigh Bears 10-6 in a warm up match.
Our British friends might not rate any team that doesn’t wear Green and Gold, but I would suggest they take a second look at the caliber of player that lines up for the likes of Samoa and Tonga these days. I know who my money would be on! Even the possibility of Great Britain playing a New South Wales or Queensland Residence team opens up the prospect of having to eventually sell two test games between Australia and a team that can’t even win a warm up match! That isn’t going to be an easy thing to do!
Australia will thrash Great Britain on home soil, we have seen it happen time and time again. Play back-to-back against against a Kangaroo’s side at home and in one of those games Australia is going to click and rack up a big score line. How do you then sell that same Great Britain side to Kiwi fans in New Zealand? “Come and see the team Australia just put the cleaners through”?
There is a very good reason why we rarely see the Great Britain team of any of the home nations teams of England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland ever play on this side of the globe. When they come here and they have to deal with the travel, the warmer climate, the firmer grounds and with opponents they are more comfortable at home, they get absolutely thrash most of the time!
I am all for bring Great Britain back. With the way the Rugby Football League has allowed England to use Wales, Scotland and Ireland as feeder teams, they may as well slap a Great Britain logo on the jersey. Great Britain needs to learn how to walk before it can run again.
How will that happen?
Well considering the way Australia is now developing the best British players in the world through the National Rugby League….it looks like it is once again up to us to save British Rugby League bacon.
Some things never change….