Kevin Sinfield has lashed out at the NRL and their proposals for the international calendar leading towards the 2021 World Cup.
Australia’s governing body shocked everyone when they outlined their vision for the next several years, which notably involved axing the mid-season Tests between England and New Zealand in Denver pencilled in for the next two years.
The RLIF announced their plans for the international calendar last year, which featured a Lions tour in 2019 followed by an Ashes series the year after.
But the proposals put forward from Australia suggested the Kangaroos tour next year, rather than 2020, which would instead host two Four Nations that would see England dumped alongside second-tier nations France, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, while Australia would play New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa.
An RLIF meeting will take place in Singapore later this month where the RFL’s newly appointed chief executive Ralph Rimmer will be tasked with putting England’s case forward.
Sinfield, who is the RFL’s rugby director, expressed his dismay at the surprising suggestions put forward.
“It raised both my eyebrows,” he said.
“I sit here with a little bit of disappointment I suppose,” he said.
“I had an understanding of what the international calendar was going to be for the next four years and suddenly it looks like there’s going to be a bit of doubt with that now.
“But we’ll see, I know that meeting in a few weeks will decide a lot of things. The thing for me is we need meaningful fixtures as a nation and over these next three or four years leading into the World Cup.
“I thought 2020 would be the year we’d get to play for the Ashes again and I’d be really disappointed if that changed.
“I mentioned the word meaningful and I mean that in the most respectful way, but we need to play against the best teams in the world, we need to play against Australia and New Zealand regularly and I’d add Tonga too. I think that’s really important for our programme.
“When the decision was made for the Lions tour to be in the calendar we were all delighted. I think the next few weeks are going to decide a lot of different factors with where we go. That plan we had was given some time ago and we’d been working off that and it’s changed, which is disappointing.”
2020 is set to be a huge year for the World Cup, which has been given £10million of government funding to help improve grassroots facilities in order to build anticipation and a legacy beyond the duration of the tournament.
World Cup director Jon Dutton said: “The example I would use for 2020 is that when you look at what FIFA do at that stage, they have a Confederations competition the year before a World Cup to stimulate the market.
“That’s exactly what we need to do.”