“International Rugby League is finally on the move after years of false starts,” said RLIF Chief Executive Nigel Wood after watching Australia’s 34-16 victory over Tonga at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium today.
Following a successful World Cup in 2017 the RLIF has recently helped stage an Emerging Nations World Championships in Australia, which featured eleven countries and a regional Championship that featured representative teams from Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
By the end of November European Championships will be concluded at three levels of competition. The Qualification process for RLWC2021 will have reached the end of the first phase in both Europe and the Americas.
Wood was speaking after the outstanding spectacle of the Australia versus Tonga match at a colourful, passionate and sold out venue
“We have just witnessed another wonderful event in which Tonga, Australia and the amazing crowd played their full parts,” he said.
“It builds upon the games in the Asia Pacific region where we have had two wonderful Test Matches staged in New Zealand. We have also seen a Tournament for those nations just beginning their Rugby League journeys, when Malta, Hungary, Poland, Greece and Turkey flew south to take on Vanuatu, Niue, and the Solomon Islands, who were joined by Japan, Hong Kong and Philippines in an eleven-team competition.”
“In Europe England will welcome New Zealand and France, Wales, Scotland and Ireland start their own Championship, while Serbia, Spain and Russia battle on to continue on the road to the World Cup in England in 2021 alongside Euro C winners Norway and Greece.”
“In Jacksonville, Florida, Chile becomes South America’s first ever World Cup participant, when they play the USA, Canada and Jamaica for a guaranteed World Cup slot.”
“All around the world, international Rugby League is being played by nations at various stages on their Rugby League journey. I think most people in our sport would like to see a vibrant and compelling international calendar, one that is respectful of the big leagues around the globe, but one that is proportionate and provides young men and women with the proper chance to represent their countries, wear their national colours and sing their national anthems. I believe there is now a coalition of the willing all pushing in the same direction.”
“In the past in 2018 alone 40 nations have played in fully sanctioned international matches at some level or other and, within 24 months, that figure will be nearer 60. Rugby League is a great sport, so we have an obligation to provide playing opportunities whenever we can.
“It is important, as most people in our sport agree, that we build on the positive discussion this week with Asia Pacific countries in progressing a vibrant and compelling international calendar that balances the needs of the professional leagues, while growing opportunities for International Rugby League in terms of participation, revenue and audience. Those discussions will continue as we welcome all members to the RLIF Annual Congress, which will be held in York, England during the Kiwi Tour, which starts next weekend.”
A full report and photos from Saturday’s Tonga v Australia clash will feature in Monday’s League Express, alongside a preview of the forthcoming battle for the Baskerville Shield between England and New Zealand.