12/11/2018 | Source: NRL
Australia will host the inaugural RLIF Nines World Cup and feature in a new Oceania Cup at the end of next season before touring Britain in 2020 as part of the new international calendar agreed to, in principle, by the Rugby League International Federation Board in the UK on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).
Delegates from more than 20 nations met in York this week for the RLIF Congress, and elected ARLC chairman Peter Beattie as deputy chair with former Scotland international Graeme Thompson elevated to the chair role in place of John Grant, who stood down at the AGM.
The main issue of the meeting was the future of the international game and locking in key fixtures for at least the next eight years and leading into the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
The Nines World Cup will see men and women from nations across the world compete in a nine-a-side tournament.
The proposed plan also includes an Oceania Cup featuring Australia, New Zealand and Tonga in one group and Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea in the other group.
However, the Kangaroos are not scheduled to play Wayne Bennett’s England team for two years as the Great Britain Lions will tour the Southern Hemisphere in 2019 to face New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
“The whole international rugby league world has looked to us to complete this important piece of work. The discussions this week have been extremely collaborative and positive,” RLIF CEO Nigel Woods said.
“This is a complex process and if we can put all the pieces of the jig-saw into place we will have a very exciting programme.”
“There is some further consultation to be undertaken with leagues and playing groups together with some important commercial evaluations before we could make final announcements, however we are confident that we can complete these discussions before Christmas.”
England were eager to play the Kangaroos, while Australia wanted to tour Britain next year but organisers of the 2021 World Cup wanted that delayed until the year leading into the tournament to build momentum.
Australia are the RLIF’s top-ranked team and beat England 6-0 in last year’s World Cup final, while Bennett’s team have this season triumphed in three Tests against New Zealand.
Further space remains on the calendar for individual nations like England to organise their next opponents.
England coach Wayne Bennett remained confident his side would play internationals in 2019 on Saturday.
“We’ll be playing somewhere,” Bennett said.
“We don’t play an Origin series, we cannot afford to let Australia continue that advantage because Origin gives them a great advantage. We’ve got to keep playing in the off-season.”
It was also announced that Thompson, a former England team manager and Scotland international, would replace Grant as RLIF chairman effective immediately.
Thompson has been on the RLIF board since 2011 and replaces Grant who took on the role in February after six years as ARLC chairman. Grant completed his final RLIF duties at the AGM after announcing he would step down this month in July.
Beattie will step into the role as Thompson’s deputy.
The RLIF also announced there will be ongoing discussions to ensure the program for the women’s game and for wheelchair rugby league are advanced at a similar rate to the men’s game.
The board has also approved financial support for the Americas Championship and a new competition for nations in the Middle East and Africa, the MEA Championship.
RLIF investment will be annual, beginning in 2019, underlining the strategic significance of and recent growth in these territories.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said “it was refreshing to see the way in which we were all able to work together, particularly the Pacific nations, to deliver the framework for this calendar”.
RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer said the 2019 calendar was not yet set in stone but was pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
“These are exciting times for the sport in general and particularly the chance we have to both take a Great Britain team to the Southern Hemisphere next year and then welcome the Kangaroos in 2020.”