The Rugby Football League (RFL) is exploring all options after Samoa RL have turned down an invitation to play a three-match series in England next autumn.
Samoa’s decision follows their participation in the southern hemisphere’s Pacific Shield – a competition Samoa’s new management say they intend to enter again in 2024.
England completed a 3-0 series whitewash of Tonga at a packed AMT Headingley Stadium in Leeds last weekend and, with a tour of Australia scheduled for 2025 and the next Rugby League World Cup taking place in 2026, the RFL is determined to maintain the momentum for Shaun Wane’s squad in 2024.
RFL Chair and IRL board member, Simon Johnson, says: “Samoa’s decision is especially disappointing, coming just days after the conclusion of Tonga’s history-making visit to these shores this autumn, but we can’t afford to dwell on it. They have made their decision.
“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.
“We’ll make further announcements as soon as there are any positive developments.”
England Men and Women are scheduled to tour Australia in 2025, and New Zealand and Australia have both agreed to visit England in consecutive years after the 2026 World Cup.
Earlier today it was confirmed that 11 countries are vying to host Rugby League World Cups in the future.
Such positive news but has now been undercut by this news that leaves England with very little options for next year in terms of what would be regarded as “meaningful” fixtures for Shaun Wane’s side as they prepare for the 2026 World Cup in Australia.
Only in 2020 have England or Great Britain had no fixtures at the end of the Super League season for over 15 years.
In 2012, England did win a tri-nations tournament against Wales and France, was the last time in a non-pandemic year that England did not meet a side from down under.
Of course, in 2020 there were no international fixtures for England whilst in 2021 they played away at France. So, what happens next for England is somewhat unprecedented.