Rugby league planning inaugural Six Nations tournament for 2018

The man in charge of Rugby League in Ireland has revealed to League Express that there is likely to be a Six Nations tournament next year – before calling on the Rugby Football League to induct an Irish-based team into League 1 sooner, rather than later.

Richard Egan, who heads up Rugby League Ireland, believes the sport needs a “meaningful and proper” international calendar to allow nations like the Irish to build on the success they enjoyed at this year’s World Cup, where they won two of their three games.

And he exclusively revealed that the current plans from the RLIF call for a Six Nations in 2018 – with a game against England in Dublin: though that could yet be a revived England Knights.

He told League Express: “The provisional RLIF fixtures at the minute show that there is a Six Nations next year, in October and November.

“That’s what’s planned, then in 2019 there’s a Great Britain tour and a World Nines. It’s unconfirmed at the minute though and that’s where I have issues; in other sports you can buy tickets years in advance but I can’t guarantee what fixtures I’ve got to sell next year.”

However, Egan believes the powers that be should ensure that clubs guarantee that players who play for nations like Ireland are given the same time off following major tournaments like England internationals – as well as admitting the full England side playing in Ireland would be an easy sell for RLI.

“Super League clubs won’t release the likes of Kyle Amor to play against England B, if we’re playing England, we want it to be the real deal,” he said.

“The players love playing for us; everyone’s sat around waiting for Liam Finn to retire but why would he? He loves it. But if you play for England you get six weeks off after the World Cup; if you play for an Ireland, for example, you get less time off.

“That’s where you need your Nigel Wood’s of this world to stand up and say to Super League clubs that if anyone plays international rugby, no matter what country, you get the same time off.”

Egan also responded to comments from some of the Irish squad on social media about them not getting paid for their World Cup exploits.

He said: “The reality is that the World Cup pays for the logistics and the travel, and the players don’t get paid.

“They knew that before they went, but what we said to them was that if we do well and make a quarter-final, the prize money would have been shared between the players and RLI.

“I managed to get it on the minutes at the RLIF’s AGM recently, the disparity in pay. I want to see a bit more of a spread in 2021; there’s around $800,000 in prize money, but around $550,000 of that go to the semi-finalists – who don’t need the money.”

And Egan also said that the only realistic way to build on Ireland’s success is a side in the domestic leagues – though he concedes that will not happen overnight.

He said: “I’ve approached the RFL and said we need a team playing here in Ireland. You’ve got Toronto, which is brilliant and I love the expansion it brings, but they don’t bring Canadian supporters in.

“You’ve got millions of people with Irish heritage in places like Leeds, Manchester – even Batley. You saw in 2013 when Huddersfield sold out for our game with England, that was because of the number of people with Irish heritage there. Could you sell a weekend away in Dublin to a group of Leeds supporters watching their team play a game? I think so.

“There needs to be a three-year cycle; we’ve got some people looking at it commercially, and there are some major brewers and major companies interested – but they need a three-year commitment.

“The first year involves a domestic competition, which is quite easy to set up – although would cost us £200,000. From that, you take 20 leading lads out of that comp and play some games against the Sheffields and Toronto’s of this world, then in year three, you enter League 1.”