Why the Exiles concept should return in 2020

“Farce, failure, embarrassment!” These are just some of the words used to describe international rugby league in this part of the world following Great Britain’s disastrous tour.

It’s obvious to me that a number of things contributed to the humiliation and one has to be the lack of internationals throughout the season.

The lack of time together to gel was obvious from the outset and we now have to begin the rebuilding process, and it needs to start next year with a mid-season Test.

Next year is pivotal for England as they head towards a huge Ashes Series and a World Cup on home soil in 2021.

So with a noticeable gap in the calendar next year for a mid-season international, speculation has started to who England’s potential opponents could be.

Well, I proposed this a few weeks ago and it seems to have gained momentum elsewhere in the media… Bring back the Exiles!

After writing up potential line ups for both teams, I can’t help but feel it would be a superb spectacle with world class players on both sides.

Who wouldn’t want to see George Burgess running at Sonny Bill Williams?

It would certainly provide our players with a much greater test than facing France, who England usually put at least 40 points past without breaking sweat.

The likes of Jonny Lomax could test himself in the halves against James Maloney, a player who guided New South Wales to State of Origin glory less than six months ago.

Jonny Lomax could start in the halves for England next year. Credit: Richard Long/News Images

There are superb match-ups all over the pitch and I can’t help but feel if the match is played at the right venue, at the right time, then it will attract a decent crowd.

The concept may have flopped previously with attendances steadily decreasing from 14,000 to 7,900; however, this Exiles team is much stronger and I feel we would be looking at crowd more towards the former than the latter.

On the pitch last time it was far from one-sided, with each side attaining two wins during the three year period from 2011 to 2013.

Fast forward to the end of each of those three years, England enjoyed some considerable success – finalists of the Four Nations in 2011, Autumn Series winners in 2012 and World Cup semi-finalists in 2013.

A minimum of one mid-season international is a must, just look at how it benefits those down under; they even fit them in on top of their famous State of Origin clashes!

It benefitted England in 2018 when they defeated the Kiwis over in North America emphatically, setting the stage for a superb Autumn Series victory.

However, fast forward 12 months and the Northern Hemisphere received a harsh lesson for their lack of preparation amongst many other factors, losing all four matches of their Oceania tour.

The tagline for rugby over here last year was “new beginnings” when the structure underwent a revamp and for the sake of the international game, an England Vs Exiles return is surely worth a go?!

It’s not easy to stage a mid-season international and the Denver Test of 2018 certainly appears to be a one off, especially after Super League and NRL clubs criticised the event for the strain on their players.

But the Exiles game can be played here by purely Super League players on both sides. It will be a great test for England and the overseas players always seem to embrace the concept.

Unless the RFL stage a mid-season international against a challenging ‘nation’ such as the Exiles, then England risk going into autumn 2020 unprepared again.

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