France to play pivotal role in Rugby League’s future

The future of international Rugby League lies in France, according to the leader of the global game.

International Rugby League (IRL) Chairman Troy Grant has described the development of the French game as a “strategic must” as he announced the French Federation’s formal bid for a Rugby League World Cup in France in 2025.

Grant, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, has spoken exclusively to League Express about his vision of “rebuilding France to help England and other northern hemisphere nations grow.”

The game’s leading figure also pledged to use his political connections within governments in France and the UK to push for support for the game at the highest levels.

He said, “I think this is great timing and a real shot in the arm that Rugby League needed, both in France and in the north and hopefully with the momentum from a brilliant RLWC21 in England we can finally restore the esteem in which International Rugby League was once held.”

The 51-year-old former politician said there was “great respect” in Australia for Rugby League in France and he expected strong support from down under for the World Cup in 2025, 71 years after the very first tournament took place in the country.

He added, “I know there is a strong respect for the French game in Australia, the fortunes of Catalans and Toulouse in the RFL competitions are followed closely, and with Australians often recruited into those teams there’s a great deal of interest there.

“Australian Rugby league fans are big lovers of the history of the game and the French national team and their contributions in International Rugby League history, known here as the Golden Age, have never been lost or forgotten. There’s real hope down under that France can again rise to that highly competitive level to again thrill us in clashes with the Kangaroos.”

The IRL Chairman added with a wry smile: “I think Aussies also like seeing England beaten, so if France can triumph more often over them that will also be well received.”

Grant joined the IRL board in February and one of the first items on his agenda was to push for a World Cup in France. He took advice from leading figures in the game before launching an official bid.

He said, “The news of FRXIII officially preparing a business case for the French Government to host the Rugby League World Cup has been extremely well received in Australia.

“The origin of the concept came from South Sydney trio Wayne Bennett, Blake Solly and Shane Richardson, who I met soon after coming onto the IRL Board. All three had experience in the Northern Hemisphere, from coaching to administration.

“Wayne emphasised that I needed to focus on rebuilding France to a competitive level, which would help England and other 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.

“I then got to speak to FRXIII Coaching Director Trent Robinson and Wayne more during our time together in Operation Apollo (the group that brought the NRL competition back after Covid) and took Wayne with me to meet the French Consul-General, Anne Boillon. We made the pitch to her and received some positive feedback and then we started planning.

“The NRL helped me with resources and I made a pitch to the IRL Board just before I became Chairman to move away from our traditional approach to finding hosts for World Cups and to pursue France as a strategic must.

“They agreed and FRXIII President Luc Lacoste was approached to garner his interest. His enthusiasm was infectious and off we went. I’ve loved working with Luc and the Exploratory Committee – it’s my favourite meeting of the week.

“Luc has put together a fantastic high-calibre local organising committee and they’re now leading the charge with our full endorsement and support.

“I’m incredibly excited and hoping the French Government and all of France will embrace a Rugby League World Cup for France in 2025. The intent of the tournament that Luc has outlined fits perfectly into Rugby League vernacular, a game affordable and accessible for everyone. It’s perfect.

“A World Cup isn’t an event that will come and go, it will leave a legacy of investment, not only into the national and local economies but importantly into French Rugby League from junior playing level through to elite. That investment is a critical part of the IRL’s strategic plan and frankly is critical to the future of International Rugby League prosperity.”

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