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Could a Five Nations Rugby League Tournament Work?

While the NRL’s decision to scrap the excellent Rep Round (in favour of more “who cares” split rounds and Nine getting their favoured Wednesday night Origin ratings cash cow back) is incredibly short-sighted, it also allows rep footy to return to an October/November window.

So why not bring the annual Tri-Nations/Four Nations back, but with a twist: make it Five Nations.

Why five? While Australia, New Zealand, and England are certainties, Tonga deserve a crack too. Forget their heavy loss to New Zealand in Rep Round, Tonga are the strongest Pacific nation and should go deep again in this year’s Rugby League World Cup. Giving them a chance to play against the world’s best on a weekly basis should see them develop even faster.

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WHAT THE FORMAT COULD LOOK LIKE?

Joining Australia, New Zealand, England, and Tonga would be the next best European or Pacific team. Like the old Tri-Nations/Four Nations (last played in 2016), this would depend on where the Five Nations are being played: the European team for the UK leg and the Pacific team for the Australia/New Zealand leg, with each area hosting every second year (with one year off for the RLWC). This fifth side would be decided through their own qualifying tournaments played during the year.

The five teams would play each other once (four games and one bye weekend), with the top team going straight to the Five Nations Final, and teams two and three playing off in a preliminary final (similar to Super Rugby AU and The Hundred). 

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THE DRAW

For the purposes of this exercise, let’s ignore the RLWC and use 2022 as a template (starting three weeks after the NRL Grand Final), with games on Friday and Saturday nights.

With only two games a weekend, you can also have a secondary tournament (either with Pacific nations or European nations, again alternating depending where the Five Nations is played) as curtain-raisers. There could also be a separate women’s Five Nations.

ROUND ONE

Friday October 21: Australia v New Zealand 

Saturday Oct 22: England v Tonga

BYE: Team Five

ROUND TWO

Friday October 21: New Zealand v Team Five

Saturday Oct 22: Tonga v Australia

BYE: England 

ROUND THREE

Friday Oct 20: Australia v England

Saturday Oct 29: Tonga v Team Five

BYE: New Zealand  

ROUND FOUR

Friday November 4: New Zealand v Tonga

Saturday Nov 5: England v Team Five

BYE: Australia 

ROUND FIVE

Friday Nov 11: Team Five v Australia

Saturday Nov 12: New Zealand v England

BYE: Tonga 

PRELIMINARY FINAL

Saturday Nov 19: Second v Third

FIVE NATIONS FINAL

Saturday Nov 26: First v Winner PF

 

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