2017 was the peak of the international game. After the successful 2013 WC it really felt like things were building. We had the Emerging Nations World Championship planned and then held in 2018 but by then things were starting to come apart.
New nations were kicking off all over the globe. It was very exciting.
The 2017 WC was financially weak but probably had some of the best results ever with Tonga's dream run and Fiji beating NZ. This was the year after Scotland tied NZ in the Four Nations. There was a sense that there could be a top 8 or so teams that could really be competitive.
As unimaginable as it may seem, Nigel Wood oversaw the best time for the international game. Although I believe it was through no real input from himself.
A combination of COVID, poor finance from the 2017 WC and a new-look, bloated IRL essentially killed off the momentum.