This is Part Two of Tyrone McCarthy’s column on how to develop and improve international Rugby League. Part One of his regular column can be viewed here..
A regular Five Nations should really be considered, running alongside a touring Lions team. Obviously a Lions team at the moment would be filled with the current England squad, but the Lions’ iconic brand needs to be reintroduced before its prestigious history is totally forgotten or unknown by the new generation of Rugby League fans.
If a tour took place whilst a Five Nations tournament was being played you would see an absence of senior representatives for some nations and it would give an opportunity for new, younger players to represent and compete in a senior tournament. This should make the competition not a forgone conclusion, which it would probably be if a full-strength England played. Over the course of time we would see players from the other home nations perform and maybe deserve inclusion to the Lions squad.
Furthermore and, maybe with even greater significance. a regular run of quality international matches would give the opportunity to attract international brands to endorse the game, attracting sponsors that the RFL and England cannot due to the origins of a particular business. A good example of this is Highland Spring sponsoring Scotland at the World Cup.
The involvement of these established brands will add greater credibility to game and perhaps running some advertising campaigns highlighting they support rugby league giving the game extra exposure it desperately needs. Additionally, extra international tests would increase the desire from broadcasting agents to televise games increasing commercial value; the fact that the recent European competition was not televised is embarrassing for a game that is classed as professional. This is where we need to be, showcasing the talent in those developing countries with an increased presence in the media.
As I mentioned earlier about the general English public following the national side, the French, Welsh, Scottish and Irish public would also embrace their teams regardless of the sport. At the end of the day everyone sees ‘Scotland v England’ and it is an inner passion that wants their nation to succeed. Some will follow and maybe forget until they see the next game on TV, however, there will be a section of these people that will research the game and find how to get involved more whether it is through participation or simply adopting a team to follow on a regular basis.
The game in the UK will always survive however the objective for Rugby League as a whole should be to thrive, and I believe not until we have a strong structured international competition. Hopefully the new era that is dawning upon us will be a step in the right direction, although I find it hard to see it being able to fulfill the ambitions that all rugby league stakeholders dream about.
Tyrone McCarthy is a former Warrington Wolves forward who spent the 2014 season with the Northern Pride in the Queensland Cup. He is returning to the UK in 2015 to play for Hull Kingston Rovers. He is closely involved with Rugby League charity The Full Blood Project.