All systems go for Rugby League World Cup in France

Prime Minister Jean Castex will tomorrow (Tuesday) announce plans for a Rugby League World Cup tournament to be held in France in 2025.

At a launch ceremony in Paris, the French Premier will officially declare government approval for the competition, which will take place 71 years since the very first Rugby League World Cup was held in France in 1954.

The official endorsement by Castex is a personal triumph for French Rugby League President Luc Lacoste, who has made it his mission to raise the profile of the Treiziste code with regional and national government bodies.

Lacoste, who has just completed his first year since taking over as President, recently announced the elevation of Wheelchair Rugby League to Elite Sport status with the French Ministry of Sport and he is keen to develop the code’s growing relationship with the country’s political leaders.

Although he declined to comment until Tuesday’s formal announcement, Lacoste recently told League Express: “I believe Rugby League is brilliant, the best sport in the world, but if we are truly going to achieve our rightful position we need to open up.

“We need to open up, to government, to business, to new people. It is not our sport; it is everyone’s and we will never go forward unless we open up to other people. That is my main message as we move forwards towards a World Cup.

“A World Cup in France will open up our wonderful game for everyone to see, is a perfect opportunity for the game to flourish.

“I have always believed that French Rugby League will be the future of Rugby League in the world.”

Lacoste was initially inspired to bring the tournament to France by International Rugby League Chairman Troy Grant, who recently told League Express: “A World Cup isn’t an event that will come and go, it will leave a legacy of investment not only in the national and local economies but also into French Rugby League from junior level to Elite.

“That investment is a critical part of the International Rugby League’s strategic plan and frankly it is critical to the future of international Rugby League prosperity.”

Former New South Wales Deputy Premier Grant sought the advice of senior figures in the Australian game, including coaches Wayne Bennett and Trent Robinson, before putting the IRL’s resources behind a French bid.

He said, “Wayne emphasised that I needed to focus on rebuilding France to a competitive level, which would help England and the northern hemisphere nations grow.

“I saw that France was hosting the rugby union World Cup in 2023 and the Olympics in ’24 and I thought a trifecta of world events would appeal.”

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara said he was aware of the interest in a French World Cup, particularly among the younger members of his playing squad.

He added, “All of the French players at our club are really passionate about playing for their country but, more importantly, they want the French national team to be competitive again at the top level.

“A World Cup in France would be a huge boost for them and the whole game over here.

“It’s a really positive step and something that we should all support.”

Prime Minister Castex will be alongside the French Sports Minister when he makes his announcement tomorrow with details of plans for games in over 40 French towns and cities and “the most inclusive” tournament in the history of Rugby League.