The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) have announced the next four year cycle of fixtures and tournaments.
England RL will tour Australia & New Zealand in the autumn of 2019 as a single nation, despite the muted re-formation of a Great Britain team. Also in 2019 the RLIF announced that the inaugural 9’s World Cup will take place though the timing of this event remains unclear, The statement from the RLIF said “The board agreed that in 2019 the November tours by England RL should be complemented by an RLIF 9’s World Cup.”
If this tournament runs at the same time as the tour down under then it could effectively rule out England’s best players from either the tour or the 9’s tournament as it would be impossible to play in both surely, though the successful NRL 9’s tournament that precedes each season tends to showcase upcoming and emerging talent in the Australian game. Obviously each nation will want to win any international tournament so decisions on the squads will need to be carefully considered, but each squad will be chosen on which individual coach places their emphasis on.
If the tour and the 9’s tournament are run consecutively then the question of player burn out will again come into question, there will undoubtedly be a scenario were one or two players are selected for the tour and the 9’s World Cup which begs the question when would their 2019 season end. As yet the venue for the 9’s World Cup is yet to be revealed, an announcement on the is expected after the next RLIF board meeting which takes place in Sydney in May. The board stated that the “2019 nines WC will be evaluated to determine whether the new RLIF global event in 2023 should be run as a 9’s event or a full 13-a-side tournament.
Also announced was an Emerging Nations World Championship tournament, featuring the likes of Canada, Hong Kong, Serbia, Vanuatu and other lesser known rugby league playing nations will take place in 2018 to be played in the Western Sydney area of Australia and $100,000 AUD will be the legacy provided by players returning to their home nations to expand and develop rugby league in their homelands.
The 2021 World Cup hosted by England will be expanded to include 16 teams (up from 14 in 2013 & 2017) to be made up of 7 European, 6 Asia Pacific, 2 from the America’s and a play off winner. The quarter finalist’s from this year’s tournament down under will automatically qualify for 2021.
No announcement was made on England fixtures for the 2018 & 2020 season’s so unless these fixtures (if any) are announced at a later date it is plausible and probable that England RL won’t play an international fixture on home soil until the opening game of the 2021 World Cup, though as stated earlier this may be subject to change at a later date.