“International rugby league was finally on the move after years of false starts” is the opinion of RLIF, Chief Executive Officer, Nigel Wood.
Following a successful World Cup in 2017 the RLIF has recently helped stage an Emerging Nations World Championships in Australia which featured 11 countries, a regional championship which 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, sold out Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
“We have just witnessed another wonderful event in which Tonga, Australia and the amazing crowd played their full parts.”
“It builds upon the recent New Zealand win over the current world champions, Australia. We have also seen a Tournament for those nations just beginning their rugby league journies 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 11 team competition.”
“In Europe England will welcome New Zealand, France, Wales, Scotland and Ireland start their own championships, while Serbia, Spain and Russia battle onto 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 development. 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 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 obligation to provide playing opportunities whenever we can”
He concluded saying:
“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.”