From Russia with Love

Well everything is slowly getting back to normal after a mammoth 4 and a half weeks of football on TV. Sorry to admit it but I along with millions of others have been truly captivated by the spectacle, a true festival of the beautiful game.
Goals galore, packed out stadiums and the best players from all corners of the globe.
It leads me to ask the question, what can our great game learn from the last month in Russia?

Let’s not kid ourselves, we’re never going to get anywhere near the viewing figures the football receives, over 26 million watched the semi final against Croatia, and we’re not going to fill huge stadiums for every game.
The one lesson we can learn though is that international competition has to be the pinnacle of any sport.
It may be over here for our players, but can we honestly say that down under?  Do Australian players dream of wearing the Green and Gold or wearing Maroon or Blue?
Say what you want about the money the Champions League rakes in but it’s dwarfed by the World Cup. A final involving an English club would get a fraction of the 26 million that watched England. It’s the same for all the countries involved. Similarly you get the feeling an Australian would rather watch origin than an international. A recent retirement from Rep Rugby saw a top name surrounded by Maroon not Green and Gold.
Multi millionaire footballers putting their reputation on the line for their country. It has to matter, a world cup game in any sport should be the biggest game in your career as it is in football . I’m not sure we have that in our sport. Certainly not in the same way it is in the 15 man code, where their players scarcely play for their clubs in the domestic competitions. Central contracts though is an argument for another day.

We can’t really blame the Australians as they’ve had it too easy for too long at international level, even though we gave them a real scare in the final last year.
We have to match them, and we have a real opportunity in our home world cup in 2021. The tournament is crucial to growing our great game.
We must ensure that all games are available on free to air TV and all games involving the Home Nations are live on BBC1, even if we have to pay them to show it on there. The question may not be how much are you prepared to pay but how much do you want?
With the rise of Tonga at the last World Cup we have 4 teams who have a realistic chance of lifting the trophy and surely Samoa can’t be too far behind.
That should raise the profile of the tournament.

The Denver test has been a very successful way of keeping International Rugby in the public eye during the season and despite opposition from you know who this game surely needs to stay, especially with 2025 in mind. You’ve got to hand it to the players who insisted on playing, enough said about the pathetic way the NRL are now trying to bribe the Kiwis to scrap it next year.
It’s a good thing to have representative Rugby in the middle of the season.
The game this year was well timed, starting straight after the football finished, though again BBC1 would have been better ( mind you anything is better than  pay per view as was last year) .
Figures on the main BBC channel are usually impressive, over a million watched a replay of Scotlands draw with New Zealand at the last 4 Nations.

English sport fans will gladly watch us beat the Aussies at any sport so we have to match them, we can put Rugby League on the lips of the nation in 3 years and give it it’s biggest boost for years. Player development in the future is key, no club without a reserve grade should be allowed to compete in Super League and let’s finally scrap dual reg.
Personally I’d move the tournament forward to June too as there is nothing else really on in June 2021, but that isn’t going to happen. Football will take a break mid season for the 2022 World Cup, so surely we could?
Let’s make 2021 the year Rugby came home.