This Autumn saw the first England test series on home soil for quite some time; with Shaun Wane’s men beating Tonga in a three-test series. This series has created plenty of optimism about the state of the international game moving forward; but now it has been dealt a fresh blow as Samoa have rejected England’s invitation of a test series in 2024.
But where does this leave Shaun Wane’s side? The RFL have confirmed they are looking to ‘deliver meaningful international Rugby League’ next year, with Simon Johnson, RFL Chair and IRL board member, saying in a statement: “We now owe it to Shaun Wane and the players, and to England supporters, to deliver meaningful international Rugby League in 2024, and we are working with RL Commercial and the IRL to make that happen.”
He added: “We’ll make further announcements as soon as there are any positive developments.”
This is the newest speedbump in the road for England-and the wider international game-after the 2025 World Cup was pushed back, but there is clearly still intent to make an international series happen on our shores next year. So, with that in mind, we’ve had a look around at the potential options and considered who England might face in 2024.
Papua New Guinea
The Kumuls would be an excellent side to face in 2024. There is already plenty of PNG representation in Super League, with Lachlan Lam, Edwin Ipape and Nene Macdonald all plying their trade in the UK, and a test series in the UK would go another step to building a new history between England and Papua New Guinea. It would also be a huge step in the right direction for the international game, with it being a series between another tier one and tier two nation like we had this Autumn, and they would also be a huge challenge after their Pacific Bowl triumph.
England and France already have a great sporting rivalry, and a test series between the teams in 2024 could go a long way to building one in Rugby League. The sides met in a mid-season international last year, but an official test series between the sides could help grow the publicity for Rugby League back in France, as well as interest new fans in England. The recent matches between the sides have all gone England’s way, but this could also present Wane with a chance to again blood in talented youngsters as he did back in April.
Wales is a glaring option, but it could be huge for the game in the UK. The Welsh men’s team only played one true fixture this year, as they took on Cumbria. A test series against Wales would go a long way to growing the game in UK, with two of the home nations facing off on the pitch. Welsh Rugby League also needs more official fixtures, and playing England in 2024 will go a long way into getting them onto the international stage. This could again allow Wane to give some younger players a chance to cut their teeth in an England shirt, which will only bode well for the future.
This one is probably a hit and hope, but having New Zealand play England in a test series would be massive for the wider international game. The Kiwi’s are one of the best Rugby League sides out there, and bringing them over to the UK would really spike interest. Commercially it would be a huge success, and on the pitch it would be an action packed series. It is probably the least likely to happen, but if it does it could transform the perceptions of international Rugby League in this country.