England and the RFL and reeling after Samoa turned down a Test Series against Shaun Wane’s side in favour of playing in the Pacific Championships in 2024 which has left England with no plans for next year as they plan for the 2026 World Cup.
This is of course a damaging development for England and it is easy to feel hard done by given these negotiations have been ongoing for the better part of a year but that is not the feeling in Australia.
Sources in Australia feel that it is on England to boost the sport in the Northern Hemisphere. They feel that the standard has been elevated in the Southern Hemisphere so there is no obligation for teams to come over instead England should have a focus of elevating the standard across Europe so they are not depending on the teams down under to come across.
This was something recently highlighted by the IRL: “We also need to understand what we’re dealing with is we have a far more mature professional league and in the southern hemisphere that multiple nations benefit from the one professional competition. Whereas in the north, one nation and a smaller cohort of other nations can get benefit from the professional competition in the North. So we need to find a way to bring up those standards.
“This was probably explained to me best by Trent Robinson, who’s the coaching director for French Rugby League, and he said, ‘for France to develop and evolve, there’s no point in him playing Australia and New Zealand and Tonga and Samoa because he’s pitting his team of very limited at times professional rugby league players’. We saw in the mid-season test the disparity when the Super League players largely weren’t represented in the French side between that and the result.”
A number of solutions have been suggested such as playing an All Stars Team, Yorkshire vs Lancashire but the suggestion from down under would be some sort of European Championships against the likes of Wales, France, Ireland and others to raise the standard of European teams in general akin to Samoa and Tonga’s rise.