Should we bring Yorkshire vs Lancashire to rival State of Origin?

Today saw New South Wales do battle with Queensland in State of Origin Game II – a showcase of rugby league that nothing else quite matches. Just take Friday’s international for instance. Yes, it was an exhibition of Super League’s finest talents but it failed to reach the level of Origin. In fact, the same can be said of all the international matches proposed to emulate State of Origin in the past.

Unsurprisingly, many have suggested we try and copy it like for like with the return of Yorkshire v Lancashire.

Such a game would speak to the history of the game. As is well documented, the sport started here in the Pennines. Ever since, the Pennines have become central to the sport in this country and the rivalry between the two counties has fuelled some of the most historic and amazing moments in the game’s history.

Given the natural rivalry between the two, it’s safe to assume a real rivalry would easily evolve if they were pitted against each other with supremacy up for grabs. After all, they’re always trying to outdo one another at club level. Thus, we could very well see an intensity in these games that could begin to emulate State of Origin and, just like Origin, it could help the international game. Getting all of England’s eligible players playing a high intensity game against each other year in, year out would only benefit the national team. This is especially the case when you factor in the literal competition for places it would create as the best from Yorkshire and the best from Lancashire look to secure their starting England jersey by out-playing their opposite number.

So, not only would it be a brilliant watch but there’d be major stakes for the players and fans to sink their teeth into.

That said, there would be some major drawbacks too. For instance, plenty of English players don’t come from either county. There’s a considerable number of Cumbrian stars in Super League as well as those who come from the likes of London meaning this contest wouldn’t boast the star-power you might expect. Moreover, it would arguably compound an issue already damaging the game.

The highest level of rugby league is already almost exclusively northern in this country and creating a fixture like this would just reinforce that. It would communicate to the rest of the country that the sport is simply northern. Making such a big event centre solely around Pennines could even dissuade youngsters elsewhere from pursuing a career in the sport.

Furthermore, much has been made about squeezing an international fixture into an already congested season. It’s stretched teams to breaking point this weekend especially with the ongoing pandemic. So, creating an Origin like series with multiple games would only worsen the strain on players. Yes, mid-season internationals and representative games would help them achieve the intensity required in the end of season tournaments but if players end up fatigued or injured what’s the point?

So, the return of Yorkshire v Lancashire could very well enable us to produce something akin to Origin and prepare better for the step above that is international rugby but at what cost to the players and the sport as a whole in this country?

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