We are now into week two of the Rugby League World Cup and the three dominant nations have put scores on the second-tier teams.
The first three games of the second week have resulted in an average forty point margin. This follows a successful week one where the average winning margin was just ten points.
If you are to take a positive out of the tournament so far, it’s the availability of players from Super League and the National Rugby League to play for their nation of heritage.
A major benefactor being Italy with the availability of the Minichiello brothers, Anthony Laffranchi and the talented Rooster Aiden Guerra. It goes without saying the Pacific influence especially from the NRL has boosted the chances of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. And Joseph Paulo’s impact on the United States side gives them a fighting chance of being a surprise quarter finalists. There’s nothing more satisfying for a player than to play for their country.
What rugby league internationally is desperate need of, is the continuation of the efforts being made by officials and players at this World Cup.
The Rugby League International Federation have introduced over the years the Pacific Cup and the European Cup.
I would like to see every two years the introduction of the Emerging Nations Cup. It would provide a vital link between World Cups, providing they are played at four year intervals.
It would be essentially sixteen of the emerging nations competing at a stage level, followed by knockout stages. This would be based on rankings taken from the year before the event was staged. The top two from each group would qualify for the quarter-finals. This would involve a massive cash injection from the RLIF with sponsorship and broadcasting rights to assist with prize money. An added bonus being in the semi-finals could be automatic qualification for the World Cup.
Based on current RLIF rankings, Australia (1,225 points), New Zealand (825 points), England (616 points) are the top three. France are next in ranking at fourth with 233 points. Wales (227 points) and PNG (206 points) round out the top six. The next best is Fiji on only 96 points. Full rankings are at http://www.rlif.co.uk/rankings
Hypothetically, the first Emerging Nations Cup would be in 2015 and the International Schedule would be as follows based on current rankings:
Four Nations – entries from Australia, New Zealand, England and France
- Emerging Nations Cup
Group A: Wales, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon
Group B: PNG, Tonga, Russia, Cook Islands
Group C: Fiji, Scotland, Serbia, Norway
Group D: Samoa, United States, Canada, Germany
In 2014 and 2016 you would have the Pacific and European competitions with the Four Nations played every year between World Cups.
Sure, most things fail before they become a success and as I said earlier in the piece this will take the efforts of officials and players to be available for this model to work. And it’s quite possible that broadcasters and sponsors won’t get behind a second-tier event.
But that’s where the IRLF have to engage the likes of Sky Sports, Premier Sports and Fox Sports to support the concept and give appropriate air-time and bring along appropriate sponsors to inject funds into the event.
It’s a bold vision, but an exciting vision to get more people involved in our game globally and in time, narrow the gap between the leading nations.