World Cup boost for French Rugby League

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Mon 5th April 2021

Vive la France!

It’s been a highly encouraging week for Rugby League across the Channel.

First came the news that national team coach Laurent Frayssinous has appointed Sean Long as well as Maxime Greseque, the former Featherstone and Wakefield halfback, as his assistants ahead of this year’s World Cup.

Then it was revealed that the country is in pole position to host the 2025 tournament – 71 years after it staged the inaugural event.

And on Saturday, Catalans Dragons made it two wins from two Super League matches while promotion aspirants Toulouse Olympique kicked off their Championship campaign by taking a notable scalp in York City Knights.

Les Tricolores aren’t the force they once were, but there are signs of an awakening, and having decent opposition so close would be great for England.

Long’s influence will be a help, as Frayssinous explained: “He was one of the best players of his generation, recognised in particular for his ability to change a match based upon his game-sense and his vision.

“I want to give the players the best possible environment in terms of structures and staff and the signing of Sean alongside Maxime Greseque demonstrates this.”

New International Rugby League chairman Troy Grant was the bearer of the good news about 2025.

He said strengthening the game in France has been targeted as a “strategic priority”.

And he revealed work has already begun to persuade the French government to back the idea of the country hosting the World Cup.

“We’ve started that work,” he said.

“It’s very early but I’ve pitched it to the French government.”

It would be the first time France has hosted the tournament outright since the 1972 competition, which was won by Great Britain.

France finished third, having been runners-up to Great Britain in 1954 and Australia in 1968.

Four years ago, they went out at the group stage after defeats by Australia, Lebanon and England, and this year, face the tough prospect of clashes with England and Samoa as well as Greece.

Meanwhile the RFL has apologised to fans who purchased the OurLeague coverage of the game between Sheffield Eagles and Bradford Bulls on Sunday.

“Technical issues experienced by the production company working with Sheffield Eagles meant that the Our League platform was unable to stream live match action until just before half-time,” said an RFL statement.

“Full refunds will be issued within two working days to all those who purchased a streaming pass for this game. This is a rare but unfortunate occurrence and the RFL apologises to all supporters inconvenienced.”

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