GARRY SCHOFIELD wonders whether France has the resources to stage the 2025 World Cup
Vive la France!
At least that’s what some will be saying after confirmation that the 2025 World Cup will take place across the Channel.
But I have to say I’m intrigued by the choice of the host nation in three more years.
It’s good that we will (hopefully) get the timetable back on track after the 2021 postponement.
But what has happened to alternating the World Cup between the Northern and Southern hemispheres?
Since Australia did the honours in 2008, it’s been England in 2013, a team effort by Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in 2017 and back to these shores this Autumn.
Let’s spare a thought for the fans of the Southern Hemisphere sides who will have to fork out to travel across the globe once again.
And what about supporters here who want to visit Australia, New Zealand or one or a combination of the Pacific islands to see some Rugby League?
When it comes to potential, I think Papua New Guinea, where the public really do love the game, would be very receptive to staging more World Cup matches.
Yes, flying such a long distance is costly, but it’s only once every eight years (or at least that’s how it should be).
Having the tournament in France could break the tradition of our fans heading off ‘on tour’.
Since it’s a relatively short hop across the Channel, would they pick and choose which games they attend?
And if they decide to visit for the duration, will it end up being both logistically difficult and even more expensive, given the organisers are saying the overall tournament will be spread across 40 cities?
With that in mind, could the gates suffer as a result?
And going back to those 40 cities, let’s remember that the French game, just like our own, is effectively restricted to certain areas.
We couldn’t sustain Super League in Paris, just like we haven’t been able to do in London, so is there sufficient interest outside the heartlands to make a tournament on the scale proposed (men’s, women’s, wheelchair and a new youth category) financially viable?
And talking of the new youth event, what age group is it?
I get that France is hosting the rugby union World Cup next year and the Olympics in Paris in 2024.
But is another event in 2025 a step too far for the floating fan?
If the tournament were to go there in 2029, allowing a Southern Hemisphere event in 2025, there would be more time to get France’s national team up to the level they need to be at to prove more competitive and therefore capture the country’s imagination.
Now, they are nowhere near, and given that it’s mainly overseas imports who make Catalans and Toulouse tick, it’s going to take more than three years to develop enough French players to give Les Bleus a significant boost.
Good to see Marshall return
I’m really pleased to see Richard Marshall back in the game after Warrington put him in charge of their Academy.
He’s a good, young English coach who we don’t want to lose from Rugby League.
I thought he was unfortunate not to remain at Salford for longer. I reckon Richard was let down by his players in terms of consistency, creativity and discipline.
He knows Warrington and I think he’ll do a good job of developing their younger players and getting them ready to move up to first-team level.
Hopefully the role will provide a stepping stone and he will move up to a first-team coaching role somewhere at some point in the future.
Now let’s find Danny Ward a job before he ends up in the rival code.
There are plenty in union who know a good thing when they see one.
My 2022 predictions
Well, it’s that time of the year once again!
The start of the Super League season is less than four weeks away, so I’m dusting down the old crystal ball and predicting which team will finish where.
I’ll do it in groups of three between this issue and that of Monday, February 7, starting from the bottom.
12 TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE
Given my comments about the World Cup, it might sound like I’ve got it in for France, but that’s not the case, and I think Sylvain Houles and his team did really well to get to the top flight.
But we’ve seen how hard it is to bridge the gap between the Championship and Super League – just look at Leigh last season.
I’m surprised Toulouse haven’t made more signings and gone for a high-profile name to help pull in the punters at the reportedly plush stadium they are sharing with the city’s powerful rugby union club.
They simply have too many journeymen in the squad. And while you might say the same for other sides, I think the journeymen elsewhere are a bit better than those at Toulouse.
I think they will pick up a few wins at home, possibly starting with the opening-round game against Huddersfield, but will struggle on their travels, and just as with Leigh, the whole thing will become just too much of a toil.
11 SALFORD RED DEVILS
I like Paul Rowley and the jobs did at Leigh and Toronto, and I’m pleased to see him having a crack at Salford in what is a key season for them, given the likelihood of their ground-swap with Salford City Football Club, possibly as soon as next year.
Salford have some decent backs, but the key department for Paul will surely be the halves, with Brodie Croft and Marc Sneyd now on board.
You know what you are going to get from Sneydy, but Croft is a bit of an uncertainty.
He once looked like a world beater at Melbourne – remember him starring against Leeds in the World Club Challenge in 2018 – but he went backwards during his time at Brisbane, and Paul needs to get him ticking again.
My other concern is whether Salford’s forwards can lay sufficiently strong foundations, but I think they’ll dig in deep enough to stay up.
10 WAKEFIELD TRINITY
The honeymoon period is over for Willie Poching, who certainly got a tune from his team as caretaker coach.
Leigh’s awful form took away some of the pressure on Wakefield last season, but I think Willie showed enough to suggest that while it might not be plain sailing, he can guide his side to enough wins to keep them out of too much trouble.
Looking in from the outside, he seems to have created a happy and positive feel in the camp, and new faces like Tom Lineham, Lee Gaskell and Liam Hood should add an extra dimension.
While Trinity are talking about a return to the days when they made the play-offs, I don’t think they will be strong enough, or consistent enough, for that.
But I do think they will get enough points to stop Willie having to look over his shoulder.
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