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England France Rugby League double-header draws dismal crowd

England France International Rugby League Toulouse Tom Johnstone

The official attendance for the international double-header between England Men’s and Women’s Rugby League sides against their French counterparts has been confirmed and it makes for disappointing reading.

Shaun Wane’s side travelled to Toulouse, without Shaun Wane himself after he underwent an operation late on Tuesday evening, and ended up running out as 40-8 victors despite a very shakey first half that actually saw the hosts go in front.

Catalans Dragons all-time leading try-scorer Fouad Yaha scored to strike worry into England but they would eventually come back and led 18-8 at the break with tries from Jack Welsby, Tom Johnstone and an Ash Handley double.

The second half saw four more tries scored with Johnstone and Welsby doubling up, whilst Warrington duo George Williams and Matty Nicholson also got on the scoresheet for what was eventually a comfortable scoreline despite a difficult start.

Whilst it was undoubtedly positive that England overcame their early wobbles, what is a huge worry is the status of International Rugby League in the northern hemisphere, something that has been amplified after the release of the official attendance figures.

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Less than 5,000 attend for International Rugby League clash

Harry Smith England Rugby League

Credit: Imago Images

For those that were able to watch the game on Super League+, something that plenty couldn’t do given the streaming apps’ huge flaws yesterday, they will have seen a very empty Stade Ernest-Wallon Stadium.

The attendance figure for the clash has now been revealed by journalist Steve Brady, a respected English journalist based in France, with Brady revealing that the official attendance was confirmed at 4,500.

It would be a disappointing crowd for a Super League match but for an International Rugby League fixture including one of the sport’s three Tier One nations, it’s a damning statement.

Brady took to social media to post: “Official attendance figure from yesterday’s France v England Rugby League internationals in Toulouse… 4,500.”

It’s an incredibly worrying figure and one that is reflective of the lack of promotion for the game with very few Rugby League fans knowing where to watch the game, meaning that the casual or mainstream audience likely wouldn’t even know of its occurrence.

More concerning is the fact that it marks a steep decline from previous Rugby League internationals played between the two nations in France. Just eight years ago in Avignon, a crowd of 14,276 turned out to watch a game.

That’s almost three times more than yesterday’s attendance, whilst the crowd of 16,866 from October 2011 is in fact more than three times larger.

The question of ‘How has International Rugby League been allowed to take such a sharp decline’ must be asked, analysed and answered provided with a detailed plan of how to restore what used to be the pinnacle of the sport back to its peak.

Previous Attendance figures sourced from Rugby League Project

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