England host New Zealand in a test series at seasons end in what will be a bit of an afterthought for Rugby League as it struggles with the demands of club football and the need to have a relevant international scene.
New Zealand will no doubt send over a bits and pieces team to take on an English side whose makeup you hope would be very different from anything they have put on the field over the last few years, we will play the series out and have a winner, but ultimately, no one will really care.
Rugby League needs more than that from international football…
I believe as a sport we need to move towards a three year World Cup cycle, not only to help grow international Rugby League, but to also open up new opportunities to expand international club competition.
The career of most professional Rugby League players is very short. Over the space of four years a player can rise to the top of the game and fall away to just become a decent first grade player. It is ridiculous to think that a player who is at the top of the sport for ten years would only have two opportunities to play in a Rugby League World Cup. When you consider what a grind Rugby League has become on elite player, most players couldn’t even think of playing in multiple World Cups.
So, what would my ideal three year World Cup cycle look like?
Lets start in year one, where you would have a window in the off season for test series between different nations. Pretty straight forward. In this window I think it would be fantastic to see an Under 20’s World Cup played in Australia or New Zealand, simply because that is where the majority of Rugby League playing nations are based. We need to build international Rugby League from the ground up. What better way to do that than to have the games best young players striving for the status of World Champions?
In year two, I wouldn’t have any top level international Rugby League played at all. Year two would be reserved for an international club competition. If the powers that be really do want a World Club Championship, lets do it right! I would want to see NRL clubs line up against clubs from the French national competition, English Super League, United States Rugby League, Canadian Rugby League and so on. If we want to bring international club competition into focus, we need to realize that it must be more than NRL clubs beating the hell out of Super League teams. We need to make this competition the focus of every club in the world. Make it something competitions around the world strive to be a part of!
That leads us into year three, the World Cup. Australia, New Zealand, France, the United States, England…with the World Cup every three years you would be able to play the competition in the major Rugby League playing nations on a regular basis while also taking the occasional competition to new nations.
Right now international Rugby League is pretty aimless. With a three year World Cup cycle you would find that every single Rugby League nation would have an immediate goal to work towards. Instead of sitting out the 2015 off season, Australia would be taking part in an international club competition at seasons end with an eye on what would be next years World Cup!
A three year World Cup cycle would make every single test match more important. Now, World Cup places would be on the line. Teams couldn’t afford to have bad after bad game because they would all be leading into their World Cup preparation.
It would also force Australia, who is slowly withdrawing from international competition, to play a few more games just to work out what its best World Cup squad would be.
Rugby League is in direction competition with EVERYTHING! Every single form of entertainment is fighting for the attention of Rugby League supporters. On top of that, people that are very casual fans, or even people that just want to see a bit of a sporting contest, need convinced that Rugby League has something to offer once the Grand Final is over.
A three year World Cup cycle would give Rugby League something to offer all of those people. More games, more variety, more international competition, more World Cups.