Four Nations tournament director Jon Dutton has revealed to League Express that this year’s event has ticked three of the four boxes they set out to tick – with the failure to play a game in Scotland the one failure of the organisers.
A tournament which nods to both tradition and expansion starts this weekend, with Scotland’s clash against Australia in Hull followed by England versus New Zealand on Saturday in Huddersfield.
But Dutton admits that while they are pleased with the locations they have secured games, one fixture for Steve McCormack’s side north of the border was something they tried, but ultimately failed, to get over the line, before explaining why it failed to happen.
“We had four key objectives,” Dutton explained. “Number one was to play the final at an iconic venue, which we’ve done in Anfield.
“We wanted a double-header at a new venue, and we wanted a game in London following on from last year.
“The fourth thing we wanted to do, which we couldn’t, was get a game in Scotland. We worked hard with the Scottish RL and the partners up there but we couldn’t get the right game at the right time.
“However, Scotland’s return to Cumbria following their success up there in the 2013 World Cup is another strong plus for the tournament.”
Dutton described ticket sales for England’s game against Australia at London Stadium as “okay”, but revealed that sales for Coventry are going well: with the final also expected to be a sell-out at Anfield irrespective of whether England make it.
“The target is always to sell every game out,” he said.
“We’re tentative with our approach but Coventry is travelling very well. Geographically it’s great for fans in the north and the south, and although we’re not quite at that level with London, we’re acutely aware that it’s a tournament game, not a series game like last year, so we’ve got work still to do.
“It’s England-Australia, and we’re hopeful that’s a pull.”
And Dutton is also hopeful that the tournament can create a lasting legacy in the targeted areas of expansion.
“We’re on a journey to try and win the hosting rights for the 2021 World Cup, and we know fans want more internationals in this country.
“The World Cup was incredible three years ago, and the Test series was watched by large audiences last year, but we’re confident the Four Nations will deliver above and beyond that.”
League Express understands a decision on whether England will host the World Cup in five years is expected by the RLIF before the end of the year.