Is it time to re-introduce representative rugby for the Kingstone Press Championships?
Leading coaches John Kear, Paul Rowley and Mark Aston thought so in an excellent recent edition of Super League TV’s On Report programme.
The notion of representative Rugby League being re-introduced in the Championship is not a new one. Both Rowley and then Featherstone coach Daryl Powell have in past years spoken publicly about finding a way to recognise players at this level – something that hasn’t been done since 2003.
Then, a National League One and NL2 team took on the touring New Zealand A side, and a National League under-21s faced their top flight counterparts.
Prior to that, an NFP Select XIII played French champions Villeneuve in 1999, and two years later an NFP under-21s side coached by Mike Gregory beat the cream of Super League 27-20 at Widnes.
But it’s now been over a decade since players outside the top flight have had their own representative team to aim for – and Kear suggested that playing England Knights would be the perfect way to re-introduce it.
Rowley was quick to support that idea. “I think the England Knights game is the way forward,” Rowley told League Express.
“People want to test themselves, and playing the Knights over a one or two game series would provide that.
“I think there would be a fair bit of spice in it as well.
“Some Championship players might think they’re good enough to play at the top level and might be a bit bitter, and the Super League lads would have a point to prove. I think it’d be good.
“How often do you get the opportunity to play or coach at representative level? “I think the Knights would be surprised at the quality of the Championship team, and they’d provide a stern test for them.
“It would be good recognition for players, and could also inspire some if they were at the bottom end of the table, even if their team is not doing so well.
“There was a time at Halifax when I was the only player to get into the England set-up, but it showed that it wasn’t just the big clubs getting recognised.
“You might not be able to win anything as a team, but individually you could aspire to play for a representative team.”
The Knights in itself has been a terrific concept, and if anything they could do with more games themselves. Facing a Championship Select side could be the perfect solution for everybody.
Gareth Walker is also the Championship correspondent for the weekly newspaper Rugby League Express.