In a huge story broken by Phil Rothfield in today’s Sunday Telegraph, it is being reported that an agreement has been made between the Rugby Football League and Australian Rugby Union to play a cross code match at Wembley Stadium in 2014.
The game would see the Great Britain Rugby League team taking on the Australian Rugby Union team in a match that is a much needed money spinner for both administrations.
A similar proposal has been pushed for well over a decade that would see the World Champion Australian Kangaroo’s Rugby League team take on the Australian Rugby Union team, but with the ARL not needing the money, and being unwilling to give its direct competition a free two hour advertising slot on to their massive audience, the game has never come to fruition.
That is not an issue with the Rugby Football League in England. Not only is the RFL desperate to make money any way it can, but it will not feel it has any issues in terms of long term impact by allowing its fan base to be exposed to the rival code. If anything it may actually give the Great Britain Rugby League team a bigger audience as British Rugby Union fans tune in to see how they play against the Wallabies.
I tend to think that these cross code mates are rubbish. I have no interest at all in watching Rugby Union. The game bores me to tears. I don want to watch 80 minutes of it, I don’t want to watch 40 minutes of it. I would much rather see Great Britain playing 80 minutes of Rugby League against ANYONE.
Unfortunately for the Rugby Football League, they simply can not turn down the money. The game in England is in a dire financial position. You can most certainly look at this as a desperate move by the Rugby Football League.
It is a similar case with the Australian Rugby Union. With ARU players facing pay cuts, the ARU losing millions of dollars every season, and with Rugby League in Australia in rude financial health, the ARU really needs to look at any way they can make money.
They are in a very similar position to the RFL really. They either take the money on offer, or they risk the entire sport going broke in their country.
How the game turns out on the field is anyone’s guess. I’d suggest that every single ARU player will have some Rugby League experience, if only at the junior level. I doubt every single Great Britain Rugby League player has played Rugby Union before though.
I would suggest that which half is played by which set of rules will be a huge deciding factor. I’d guess that if the first half is played by Rugby Union rules the Great Britain team would simply look at damage control in the first half, and then to run the Australian Rugby Union teams forwards off the park in the second half.
If it is played the other way around, with Rugby League rules first, the Australian Rugby Union team would do a similar thing. Try to limit the damage in the first half, then just try to grind away the win in the second half against an opposition that is not only battling fatigue, but an unfamiliarity with the rules.
I also wonder if both teams select their regular lineups, or if they selected a team of specialists instead. It would make sense for the ARU to select a team full of former Rugby League players with the RFL selecting a team full of former Rugby Union players.
Considering that neither team is the best in the world in either code, I don’t think the outcome will say much about either game. That is unless, one side completely destroys the other!
This may also be seen as bait…
If the Australian Rugby Union team won the match I have little doubt that Kangaroo’s players would be dying to gate their hands on the Wallabies and teach them a real lesson.
Should that happen I can imagine the All Blacks wanting to get their shot at the Kangaroos!
While officials from both codes would no doubt be horrified at the escalation, these are all competitive athletes. They will all get fired up to prove a point against any opposition.
One thing that needs to be kept in mind is the ramifications of this happening…
We are coming off the back of possibly the most successful Rugby League World Cup ever. Everyone in the game wants to build upon the World Cups success.
The very first thing the Rugby Football League has done after the World Cup is to turn its back on playing another Rugby League playing nations in exchange for money to play an exhibition game against a Rugby Union team.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sit right with me. Where do the Rugby Football League priorities lie? Yes they need to make money, but at what cost? Does the end justify the means? I’m not sure it does.
Had there been an offer on the table to play the Australian Kangaroos in a one off test at Wembley Stadium simply to make money, I’d say gat. Go for it. In this case though I really am not all that sure about the Rugby Football League’s priorities here.
None of this is final. This deal may still fall through. As I wrote earlier, this hybrid game has been pushed by the media for well over a decade and THIS is the furthest the concept has ever got. This game has got beyond a “No way, never, ever!”.
I guess it’s up to the RFL to come clean now. We’re they negotiating to play a hybrid match on the back of the Rugby League World Cups success? If so it would have to go down as an extremely selfish move that would have to crush England’s chances of hosting a Rugby League World Cup for a very long time to come.
Time will tell I guess…
This match also throws up one horrifying outcome I don’t think any of us are willing to face. The day that I start cheering on the Great Britain Rugby League team!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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