BBC BLOGS - Paul Fletcher
« Previous | Main | Next »

What is the point of the rugby league World Cup?

Paul Fletcher | 11:05 UK time, Thursday, 23 October 2008

Let's start by making one thing clear - I am a massive fan of rugby league. I think it is a brilliant sport - physically challenging yet incredibly skilful and fast - and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men (and women) who play it.

The problem is that a lot of the people I know aren't really all that keen on the game and seem to regard the forthcoming World Cup in Australia as little short of a second-rate joke competition.

A few of their thoughts, in no particular order:

The last World Cup in 2000 was a disaster, both financially and as a competition.

How often do they take place anyway?

What weird format, requiring a post grad in logistics to understand it, is being used this time?

And what about the teams - will it be full of nations that I never knew played the game comprising fifth-rate Aussies, such as Lebanon in 2000?

How many players have changed nationality for this World Cup?aussies438.jpg

And anyway, only a tiny handful of teams can win it? That is if we're being really generous. Let's be honest it will be a boring one-sided procession for the host nation. No one cares, not even the Aussies - and they are going to romp it.

For on some points above, there is no strong defence. What I find most embarrassing is both the ease and frequency with which players change nationalities. Anthony Tupou, for example, had been named in the Tonga squad but following an injury to Michael Crocker has now been called into the Australian 24. Plenty of players from Tonga and Samoa have previously played for New Zealand, while Mark Calderwood was all set to represent Scotland before a late-season run of form earned him an England call-up.

The number of English and Australian players in the Scotland and Ireland squads doesn't really help matters either.

And let's not kid ourselves, the World Cup in 2000 was a huge disappointment. It lost money and provided ammunition to the sport's many knockers. Even the unseasonably atrocious weather conspired against the tournament.

But hold on a minute. The game has made massive strides since 2000 and this World Cup deserves to be judged on the quality of its organisation and the standard and excitement of the product it delivers.

A more co-ordinated approach between the major nations has resulted in longer-term planning and a clear idea that the game must be developed at international level. Some of this can be traced back to the appointment of Richard Lewis as the RFL's executive chairman in 2002. England had the option to stage a World Cup in 2005 but when Lewis arrived he quickly kicked that into touch.

"Instead we decided to put building blocks in place, with a regular international calendar, both at the top level and the second tier," Lewis told me.

Since the last World Cup we have had regular Tri-Nations and various qualifying tournaments for the developing sides. In the past teams have been put together at the 11th hour but this should ensure all the 10 teams at the tournament have a real sense of identity and purpose. Lewis, also deputy chair of the Rugby League International Federation, has outlined a 10-year-plan that sees further World Cups staged at five-year intervals with various tours for the major nations and smaller competitions for the developing nations taking place in between.

"I'm absolutely confident that as every World Cup cycle goes by, more and more nations will be competitive with the big three of Australia, New Zealand and England," added Lewis.

Adrian Morley, England's veteran prop, argues that lessons must be learned from union. For your information, the first league World Cup was held in 1954, the first union World Cup was in 1987.

"Union has taken the bull by the horns and made it a huge event," reckons Morley. "Rugby league needs to make everyone sit up and take notice of what a great spectacle it really is. Make it bigger and better."

He has a fair point but let us not forget that the union tournament has not always been the huge spectacle it is now. In 1987 the New Zealand team were apparently billeted out to local families for the duration of the tournament. But what union has done is grow tournament upon tournament - and this is precisely what Lewis is hinting at when he talks of "building blocks" for the future.

But what of the structure of the tournament? Initially it looks confusing, but if you have a proper look at it you will see there is method behind the madness.

It has been weighted so that the big three plus a very useful Papua New Guinea side are in Pool One. This guarantees competitive, heavyweight fixtures every weekend, with three teams qualifying for the last four. Six other nations comprise Pool Two and Pool Three. The winners from each will meet in a play-off for the final semi-final spot. The advantage of this is that the competition should avoid many of the processional and extremely boring hammerings that both rugby codes have suffered from in the past. Tonga's match against Samoa in Pool Two, for example, has the look of a very tasty group decider.

Just think about it for a minute. How many top-level nations do you need to produce a competitive and exciting World Cup? How many countries, for example, realistically stand a chance of winning the rugby union World Cup?

And with the big three plus several other strong developing sides in the tournament, the ingredients are there for an intense competition.purdham438.jpg

Standing against this is the view that an Australian victory is inevitable. After all, they have won nine of the 12 World Cups so far. But New Zealand to a 24-0 victory over Australia in the final of the 2005 Tri-Nations - evidence in itself that the Kangaroos are anything but invincible. And Brian McClennan, the coach of that conquering Kiwi side, recently claimed that Australia "are there to be beaten". He added: "The invincible tag has gone, whoever gets to the final can be confident of beating them".

Morley believes it is utter rubbish to suggest the result is a foregone conclusion. The Aussies, predictably, see matters differently. A member of the coaching staff at an NRL club told me the only way the Kanagroos would fail to win is if they lost their focus while Tony Rea, who spent many years playing for and then coaching London Broncos and is now back in Australia as assistant coach of union outfit Brumbies, said the Aussie public were in upbeat mood. When I asked him whether anyone down under thought Australia would fail to win he said: "No. Everyone is very, very confident." Yet he added: "But that doesn't matter, I think England will be right in it."

Lewis thinks it is crucial the tournament is correctly marketed and promoted and has a sensible fixture list. I, for one, am confident these criteria will be met. This is the centenary year of the game in Australia and the governing bodies have gone all out to make this World Cup succeed. The Australians proved with the 2000 Olympics that they know how to deliver a big tournament and they will do so once again. The sale of television rights, as well as advance ticket and corporate sales suggest this tournament will make a profit.

As for media coverage, Rea reckons that every day now the back three pages of the newspapers have daily pieces about the tournament and that everyone knows who has made the Australia squad. Even Scotland's pool match against France in Canberra, not exactly game of the tournament, has created a buzz about the place, according to Rea. Make no mistake, the Australians are looking forward to the World Cup.

Morley hopes it will start a process that leads to the rugby league World Cup becoming "one of the major sporting events in the world". That is a long way down the road but I do have hopes for this tournament. I'm hoping for plenty of exciting games, some intense drama and a few shocks. I also hope the tournament proves that there is life for rugby league at international level and that the sport can organise a World Cup worthy of the name.

I just hope that when I go down the pub after it has finished my mates begrudgingly admit it was a decent spectacle. Or perhaps, say nothing about it at all.


  • Comment number 1.

    Surely, the yardstick is the support the competing countries receive from their "fellow countrymen"!!!
    How many Scottish and Irish fans will be glued to their sets during the tournament? How many Lebanese know the tournament is taking place - or have even heard of Rugby League? I've been an avid League fan for over 50 years and would love to see a true world-wide tournament. But as it stands, apart from France and Papua New Guinea, the other teams are largely just English, Australian and New Zealand players who can't make it into their own country's team. Still, I'll be watching every game - ludicrous rugby league is better than no rugby league!

  • Comment number 2.

    I think it's going to be a really good tournament, but how far it can become an advert for the sport is another matter. It's obvious there is going to be a buzz in Australia, rugby is arguably the National sport over there and League is every bit as popular as rugby union, I somehow doubt the stadiums will be hard to fill. But in England it simply isn't receiving enough coverage and attention to be taken seriously, despite a genuine chance of England winning! All the matches are been shown on Sky Sports for example, yes there will be highlights on the Super League show on BBC 2 but even then that's going to be in the North of England! Anyone else think that that's minimum coverage?
    Yes the Nation can constantly hear about the England cricket team winning the Ashes for the first time for 500 years or a Scottish tennis player reaching the final of a minor tennis tournament in America or some other far away land but God forbid Rugby League becomes succesful and popular.
    The only time the Nation hears about Rugby League is when one of the code's top stars moves to a Rugby Union squad. The fact they used to play League is always used as an excuse to slate them afterwards if they fail to adapt. It's a das state of affairs but it's the way it is.
    At least we can all look forward to that bit on the sport news when the reporter says "and finally" with a smile on their face and we see a brief 30 second snippet of Jamie Peacock lifting the World Cup and a couple of tries. (That is if we win). That and a small paragraph on the fourth from last page of "The Sun" is what will be said, and that's it, that's the Rugby League World Cup over with.
    Hope I'm proved wrong.

  • Comment number 3.

    OK, I accept that team selection for the Scotland & Ireland squads appears farcical however they have to start somewhere and aren't there a number of the Irish sqaud chosen from the Irish domestic league? As far as I am aware the criteria for selection is the same as in other sports i.e. at least one grandparent being from the country in question. As for what interest exists in Lebanon. I'm pretty sure that an international fixture in Tripoli against the French drew a crowd of over 10,000. We have to start from somewhere and encourage the game to grow in new countries and consolidate in others (France, PNG). The fact that our World Cup has fewer participants than a football or Union version should not discourage us from staging our own event. I am thoroughly looking forward to this World Cup.

  • Comment number 4.

    RL World Cup has the same validity in world sport as the World Series in Baseball. That means it is a joke

  • Comment number 5.

    The format is born of necessity. It just needs to take place and for clubs and players to realise that the international game is needed for the sport to grow.

    Richard Lewis has helped tremendously with getting things back on track. The Tri-nations have been great games to attend.

    England have a great chance to make a name for themselves in this World Cup and I hope they bring the trophy back to Blackpool instead of it staying at bondi.

    Oh and to Squaremonkey I think you will find that RL is vastly more popular in Australia. If it was only as popular I'd be worried!

  • Comment number 6.

    I for one can't wait for Saturday!!!

    There's always going to be those sharpening their claws to scratch the life out of Rugby League, but we are the true die hard fans.

    We appreciate the effort on the pitch, hence the lack of trouble off it. And the fact that the BBC and Sky give us minimal coverage only brings us closer together.

    But don't get me wrong, I want the game to progress....I pray that it progresses because this truly is the greatest sport to both play and watch.

    All greatness starts somewhere and ours was in 1895 at the George Hotel. It's taken a while for the sport to stir into life, but I feel this World Cup is the start of something.

    Don't compare it to football or Rugby Union. Give it time and we'll be battling with them at the top of the ratings. Imagine where we'd be if the BBC and Sky did give us air time (has anyone seen any adverts for it??).

    I've totally lost the point of what i was saying......but......Rugby League fans will love the World Cup! The open minded neutrals will love it!! Those ready to knock us, bring it on. We've had it for 113 years and we're still here despite your best efforts.

    Consider Rugby League to be evolution. Just like man evolved from primate, Rugby League evolved from rugby union which evolved from football. It's the natural order of things!

    Ironic that with a recession aparently around the corner, our sport is concentrating on progression!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Great to see a RL-orientated blog, Fletch - thank you.

    The domestic competition in Britain is seemingly been sculptured to aid the international scene. I

    The number of foreign imports have been limited next seasonand the figures are to dwindle further over the course the next 2/3 years as the franchise takes shape.

    This allows more young local players to come trough the ranks, whereas 5 years ago an import may have taken the young players place, which in turn means that there should be more talent to choose from when it comes to international representation.

    The RFL are unpopular with a lot of fans for many reasons but one thing that we can all agree on is that the game is a more more stable position than it was at the last world cup in 2000.

    We all want to see 2 full time domestic leagues with promotion and relegation. We all want to see other domestic competitions flourishing within the UK and Europe. We all want to see a competitive world Cup.

    The WC is not a foregone conclusion. And I feel the game is about to take off big time after the world cup final.

  • Comment number 8.

    4. At 1:44pm on 23 Oct 2008, newloyalroyal wrote:
    RL World Cup has the same validity in world sport as the World Series in Baseball. That means it is a joke

    Its called the world series as its named after the world newspaper which sponsored the series when it began. Im afraid I have not read the rl world cup newspaper but would love to read a copy.

  • Comment number 9.

    Does anyone in the UK care about rugby league apart from a sprinkling of people from north england?

    Rugby League World Cup is equivalent to a Baseball world championship.

    RL is a good game, and should be more popular but I think it sat still whilst Union shot past it in popularity.

    Too many chip on shoulder northerners refusing to accept reality that the Union WC is infinitely more significant than the League one.

    The first step on the road to change is accepting the current situation and the need for a change.

  • Comment number 10.

    squaremonkee, 1:24pm: "League is every bit as popular as rugby union" - League is considerably MORE popular than Union in Aus.

    newloyalroyal, 1:44pm: "RL World Cup has the same validity in world sport as the World Series in Baseball. That means it is a joke" - it takes a peculiar brand of stupidity not to read the blog before posting your comments. Those of us who did read the blog, well, we saw names like England, Australia, New Zealand, France and Papua New Guinea. I can't recall ever seeing a World Series featuring rep teams from those nations.

  • Comment number 11.

    I can’t wait for the World Cup to start on Saturday. For mine we need to develop the International dimension of Rugby League if the sport is to thrive in the 21st Centruy. The organisers have got a lot of things right about this World Cup. Tickets sales, sponsorship and government support are all strong.

    Yes the nation swapping rule is strange and unique to Rugby League. But on the positive, this has created 2 wonderfully strong Pacific Island teams in Samoa and Tonga. I think Samoa will reach the semi finals, and when there could easily cause an upset.

    And lastly to whoever said Union and League were the equal in Australia, you’ve obviously never been to Australia. It probably wont come across in this World Cup due to infighting and the insular NRL centric view of the World held by many Aussie Rugby League fans, but Rugby League in Australia is about 5 times the size of Union. Look at any measure, playing numbers, overall number of spectators attending games, TV ratings, column inches. Rugby League in Aus leaves Union for dead. I know as I am from Sydney!

  • Comment number 12.

    Good blog, i dont what it is, but for me rugby union is miles ahead. When i know the 6 nations is coming, or the world cup, it gets me realy boyed and patriotic. With league its just not the same. Probably something to do with media attention i guess. Is this tournament on tv anyone?

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    At 2:22pm on 23 Oct 2008, bow4fowler wrote:
    "Good blog, i dont what it is, but for me rugby union is miles ahead. When i know the 6 nations is coming, or the world cup, it gets me realy boyed and patriotic. With league its just not the same. Probably something to do with media attention i guess. Is this tournament on tv anyone?"

    You raise a good point, my friend - the sense of occasion that the big Union tournaments engender goes a long way to attracting the neutrals.

    This sense of occasion is aided greatly by the near-saturation media coverage such events, something that the 13 man code has long struggled to attain.

    It's on Sky in the UK, and various channels overseas; hope you enjoy it - League is rather less opaque than Union (in my opinion) and as such can be easier to watch for the uncommitted fan.

  • Comment number 16.

    9. At 2:17pm on 23 Oct 2008, steviehullyyy wrote:
    "Does anyone in the UK care about rugby league apart from a sprinkling of people from north england?

    Rugby League World Cup is equivalent to a Baseball world championship."

    Rugby League is played professionally in four countries, and this will be increased to five next year.

    In addition, there are organised tournaments in a large number of other nations.

    The only explanation for the continuing comments of this ilk are a deliberate ignorance on the part of posters such as yourself - why act in such a manner? Are you threatened by what you describe as an insignificant sport? Why else make the effort to post transparently incorrect missives and make a fool of yourself?

  • Comment number 17.

    I think this World Cup is going to be brilliant and England, if they can believe in themselves and their undoubted talent, will push Australia all the way.

    I grew up on Football and Rugby Union, with a bit of cricket thrown in there, coming from Hampshire Rugby League was not something which was around down here.

    Anyway - four years of living in Melbourne and playing Touch (a non-contact verison of league) has made me sit up and look and fall in love with Rugby League. It's a great game, in which you have to be fit, strong, skillful, talents, hard, quick - it is unforgiving.

    Back home now and with trips to Leeds, Doncaster and visits to Harlequins its a brilliant, afforable and family friend sport to watch.

    Anyone who has any doubts about the callibre of these guys and girls should watch the League of their Own DVDs. These guys are true warriors. Coupled with grest coaches like the inspirational Brian Noble. This is a sport which does take a bit of getting used to but once people get a better understanding I think more people will love it!

    The England Team who are going to the World Cup are supreme athletes. Like the Promo says

    Hearts of England
    Men of Steel
    They will deliver

    I can't wait!!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    I'l take ur advice and give it a watch, although no sky for me. Will have to be the pub if its on.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    For all of those wondering how to catch the matches:


  • Comment number 21.

    Will be great to watch the matches on Sky and the Highlights on the BBC. With TV viewing figures up by over 10% for the last Super League season, this should be one of the most watched RL world cups ever.

    I think the games will also be shown in 125 countries so well done to all involved.

    Can't wait for it to start.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks for everyone been so patronising. I made the point to emphasise the contrast in England, where League isn't as popular as Union.

  • Comment number 23.

    It's simple really. Union wanted the games on the terrestrial channels so that it woud get the most coverage. A stroke of genius as the numbers that have BBC1/ITV1 far outstrip those that have Sky Sports and so the potential numbers increase exponentially.

    Simple mathematics really and with the upcoming stars of Union getting good publicity I can't see how league can compete....sorry

  • Comment number 24.

    StevieHullyy's comments that "no one outside of the North of England" cares about the RL World Cup is, frankly, nonsense.

    I live in Bristol and am a huge RL fan. I was turned on to the sport as a kid by my dad, who was born in Great Yarmouth and fell in love with the game when he met my mum, a Leeds fan in her youth. But I am not alone as a Leaguie in the South West - we have a thriving RL club, Bristiol Sonics, which was started by a group of RL fans who were all, bar myself, born in the West Country. I met up with a load of our players at the weekend, the vast majority of whom come from outside of the North of England. Much of the talk at the weekend was about the RL World Cup.

    While all of us passionate League fans would admit that RL has yet to capture the national interest, more and more people are getting excited about the sport, in such diverse places as Swindon, Plymouth, Exeter, Gloucester, Redditch, Coventry, Nottingham, Cardiff and Bridgend. All of these places have RL clubs playing in the Summer Rugby League Conference. And there are around 70 others around the country, all bar a handful outside of the so-called northern "heartlands".

    This world cup will be brilliant. I'm off over to Australia next week to follow England's progress. I can't wait.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well I'm really looking forward to this tournament and I used to follow the Rugby Union game massively until I saw a Super League game for the first time.

    I saw how quick and non stop action and excitement League brought and couldnt be bothered with the stop start, get the ball kick out of touch and stand around doing nothing every 30 seconds that Rugby Union is. Seriously if you ever see a rugby union game on tv flick over to it at regular intervals and 9/10 times you will see no action going on at all.

    I also wish this patronising tone towards "northerners" would be dropped when talking about rugby league, its a simplistic comment and conforming to rather lazy and dull stereotypes, please try to rise above it people!

  • Comment number 26.

    its funny how the same old retorts get rolled out by the union fans about the RL world cup.. luckily pretty much most of the sports fans of the UK dont share the forced opinions of Rugby League or your, again forced, opinions that union has a valid world cup, as we all know they dont!.. (its supposed to be a competition, teams getting 100 points passed them isnt competition!). Regardless of whats wrong with Rugby League, this world cup will be a much more entertaining and hard fought sporting spectacle than any rugby event, past or present. And will show up the wonderful talents of players from the World of Rugby League.. from englands james roby, to australias greg inglis, to tonga's feleti mateo to fijis paul aiton.. names not familar to most but names that will light up the Rugby League stage.. i urge anyone with the slightest interest in rugby to watch this event, and, to anyone who thinks they may not enjoy it.. because believe me, if you love sport, you will love Rugby League

  • Comment number 27.

    i should also point out to back up west country eagle, i am East london born and bred.. and fell in love with RL after watching the game on TV, and instantly being able to associate with the qualities the game produces..

  • Comment number 28.

    "Does anyone in the UK care about rugby league apart from a sprinkling of people from north england?"

    Yes im from cambridge and think it is easily the most entertaining sport to watch. As much as i love union its a game for the players, i derive no pleasure from watching a team kick for three points all the time. League is a game for the fans, how often do you see the two being taken instead of an attemp at the try? Also the skill on display in league is far higher and there is no room for a fat prop these days.

  • Comment number 29.

    Wouldn't it be better to have a fullscale international club tournament over 3-4 weeks based on the union world cup format?

  • Comment number 30.

    Great Blog again Fletch, we need more RL tub-thumpers at the BBC.

    As a Union player with a Cherry & White core bred near Blackpool but living in London (The Super League show is on at the ridiculous hour of 2 am on a Monday night/Tuesday morning down 'ere - what's the point?) I have a unique point of view shared by a lot of my school friends. We used to go to watch Wigan together after playing Union at school.

    I have to say I'm not alone when I say that the current turmoil and ostentatious nature of Union is really starting to bore me. The ELVs, Sonny Bill's lust for money and monotonous defense is making for one very dull game (reminding anyone of Football at all?). Only 1 game in the Heineken Cup was actually decent watch this weekend (Cardiff v Gloucester). I challenge any one of the RL detractors to say the same about a weekend of fixtures from the Super League or Challenge Cup. Exciting games are the rule not the exception. A case in point is a mate from Cambridge I took along to the Harlequins v Wigan game at the startof the season. A die hard Football fan he's always hated watching Union with us; he's now dragging me along to Harlequins games. Simple - passion & excitment.

    So come on England, lets have a charge to the final and bring the RL World Cup home. Now that would create some interest. RL in the UK needs it and, you could argue, RL world wide needs it. Amen

  • Comment number 31.

    "Does anyone in the UK care about rugby league apart from a sprinkling of people from north england?"

    Yes. I'm a Union ex-player and fan. I've also played and enjoyed watching other sports. For League to grow it needs a WC every 4 years. Also, especially if your country reaches any WC final, you should be proud and supportive.

  • Comment number 32.

    The "sprinkling of northerners" that watch league are obviously a bigger sprinkling than the toffs that class themselves as union fans as I have been told from a reliable source that the Sky ratings for league are significantly higher than for union.
    The higher esteem with which union is held is entirely based on the national game. At club level league is a far more entertaining and spectacular sport. It's perhaps not as technical but the amount of punting and rucking in union is very very dull. I can't get excited about a sport where the ball is either out of play or buried under 4 men. In league we have open running as the primary way of scoring. There's also too many players on the pitch in union. I tried to watch the last union world cup and just got bored - it's like watching a boring game of tennis with some greco roman wrestling. League players are better athletes and have normal ears too!

  • Comment number 33.

    Union and League. Chess and Checkers.

    Some posters above have noted how League is non-stop and Union has more stoppages. Non-stop of the same boring stuff though. Guy gets ball and runs into brick wall. Guy gets ball and runs into brick wall. Same old story every time.

    I wouldn't expect League fans to understand all the intricacies of Union. There are so many interesting facets to the 15 man game. And yes kicking is one of them. So what?

    Union to me is analagous to warfare. It's tough and hardhitting but also involves complex strategies and the use of specialist units to carry out certain tasks. ie Kickers, props, scrum halves.

    League is just 15 robots laid out in a line and all tasked with doing the exact same thing. How boring is that?

  • Comment number 34.

    I am Scottish and hated rugby for over 20 years before i really discovered rugby league. I have been watching it for about 5 years now and cannot get enough of it. It is far more exciting than Union, with its half hour scrums and 20 mins to set up a lineout. The world cup will be interesting and i will be watching all of Scotlands games. I would have also been a fan of England in the tournament, but the Mark Calderwood situation has changed that and i hope Tony Smith and Calderwood get what they deserve, 3 defeats!

  • Comment number 35.

    You ask how many teams would be in contention to win the rugby union world cup? On their day I would suggest 8 (England, Wales, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France, Ireland and Argentina). You then get a tier of pretty decent side who would push the teams above them (Scotland, Italy, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga) and then a few who are competitive (Japan, Canada and USA).

    League on the other hand has a top tier of three sides (Australia, New Zealand and England) and then a competitive tier of France, Wales and Papua New Guinea. There is alot more strength in depth in union.

    In all honesty, the world cup format should really be a four nation affair with a round robin and the top two nations playing the final. England, Australia and New Zealand qualify automatically and the final place is decided by holding a qualifying tournament for the lesser sides. It may seem to league fans to be a good idea to have the top three sides in one group but at the end of the day it is a farce as they will all qualify for the next round anyway and the other group is full of also rans.

  • Comment number 36.

    Yes, it's all about the coverage. Union World Cups, Five/Six Nations etc have always had a massive build-up in the papers and on the BBC so it's hardly surprising they get more public interest on the telly despite the fact that Rugby League attendances have always been higher.

    And as for international hammerings, I seem to remember an England Union match against Romania where they had to change the team name on the electronic scoreboard at Twickenham to "England 1", to enable them to display the score's being over 100 points.

    I they played the Union World Cup Final at the bottom of my garden, I'd shut the curtains.

  • Comment number 37.

    Why does rugby league always have to defend itself for having a World Cup ? As pointed out, the first one was in 1954. It's popularity is increasing in many countries, in Papua New Guinea it's regarded as the national sport. There are domestiic competitions in many countries like Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Lebanon (who missed out to Samoa in qualification). So what if only 3 countries have a realistic chance of winning the Rugby League World Cup. The idea of World Cups is to increase awareness of the sport.

  • Comment number 38.

    It is hard not to accept League as a game exclusively for Northern folk when every player or fan that gets interviewed has a strong Yorkshire or Lancashire accent. Even Sky's reporter had the stereotypical "ee-oop" way of speaking. Additionally, League has never caught on in the south despite game efforts to popularise it. I and many others from the south simply fail to find the sequence of seven crash balls and seven restarts followed by an up and under a very exciting spectacle. Having said that, I will watch the games if they are being shown on DSTV Africa. I would even cheer my beloved England on in bowls and lacrosse!

  • Comment number 39.

    Unfortunately I'm going to miss it all because no Catalan or Spanish channels are showing it. Surely the powers that be should have been offering free coverage to countries where it is not played. Spanish cable channels show the rugby union world cup. If they showed the league world cup, most spectators wouldn't know the difference, and would watch anyway out of curiosity. And you never know, some viewers might like it and want to get involved.

    Rugby League could take off big time in Catalonia if the RLIF are clever. A Catalan team is being put together, and has already played a few games. If the team can ever get good enough to play in a World Cup, the game would really take off here, as there are so few sports in which Catalonia are allowed to participate. What we really need is for the team to be allowed to have players from French Catalonia. The problem is the French rugby league authorities would probably stand in the way of that happening.

    If the Catalan team did work, the Basques would probably soon follow suit and set up their own team.

  • Comment number 40.

    I can not wait till Saturday when the orginal rugby world cup takes place.

    It's just a shame the media doesnt get behind it in this country when England have got a good shot of winning.

    Many people think its just a northern game but 50% of the people who watch super league on tv come from the south.

    The next one will be bigger and better with plenty of qualifying games. I had the pleasure of seeing Tonga v Fiji last year. What a game. More of the same.

    And the way its set up we shouldnt see the walk overs that they get in Union.

    Get your flags out and be proud to support England, Scotland or Ireland. Its World cup time. And if someone asks you why spread the gospel of Rugby League

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh no! The league v union comments have not taken long! It was just the same in the blogs during the Rugby (Union) World Cup. Union supporters prefer their game and we leaguies in turn find this one of the greatest mysteries in life, but please, both sides, don't make your comments from positions of ignorance. The main thrust of Fletch's blog is whether this 'World Cup' is counter-productive. We have to face it: union started from a much broader base and is watched by far more people world-wide. Union seems to be much more successful at development. I, for instance, would welcome the possibility of an Italian rugby league team competing reasonably with England, or better still, an Argentina beating them!

    On the other hand, I wish ignorant posters like Ultra Vires would just try watching the game before making his preposterous comments. I try to avoid the inverted snobbery of some of my fellow leaguies, but his patronising assertion that most of us wouldn't 'understand the intricacies' of union really gives him away. Does it not occur to him that, because of the ubiquitious nature of union, most of us have also played and/or watched the other code for most of our lives? He, though, doesn't even know how many players make up a league team('fifteen robots...'). And the 'chess and checkers' subtitile is appallingly out-of-date and condescending. Actually, I think the handling in chess is better than in union, but his analogy with warfare is interesting. All the men I have spoken to who have seen active service describe it as a miserable and tedious experience.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm not criticising the idea of a rugby league world cup, I went to the 2000 final after all. It is the format I am criticising.

    There are just too many deadrubbers and I honestly think a four team round robin competition is a much better idea with the minor nations being put into a qualifying tournament and the winner playing against the big three.

  • Comment number 43.

    'Additionally, League has never caught on in the south despite game efforts to popularise it.'

    Actually I think its doing ok at Harlequins. Attedances are alright and being played right in the union heartland of Twickenham.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm a southern English person who likes Rugby League!

    There were some wonderful GB-Austrailia tri-series in the past; but the Rugby League World Cup has been an odd tournament, hosted at strange intervals, and therefore has not gained the tradition the Rugby Union world cup has gained.

    The Rugby Legue world cup should be hosted every four or five years. England, Australia, New Zealand make it competitive, then teams such as France can make it a real world tournament.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Rugby League is played professionally in four countries, and this will be increased to five next year."

    I am only assuming that you are including New Zealand in this - who have one team that plays in the Australian NRL?

    And nobody gives a flying f.... ist of judah about the Warriors unless they're winning

  • Comment number 46.

    Winning is important. How many people were glued to coverage of the Beijing Olympics because they might see a Briton medalling? How many people remember the RU World Cup before England won it? Who cares from where Catt hails? Will the cricket world cup be considered a success unless England win? Who cares from where KP hails?

    I hope this tournament is fantastic entertainment. If it is, then the press and doubters will change their minds.... especially if England wins!

    And we can.

  • Comment number 47.

    A plea! Support your country! Whatever the rights and wrongs of the tournament, whichever side of the great Rugby divide you belong to, show your patriotic pride.

    However slim some people might think it is, England has a chance of beating the Aussies in their own back yard, for goodness sake! I'd sit up in the middle of the night watching international snail racing if we had a chance of turning the Aussies over!

    RL is a wonderful sport played by magnificent, dedicated athletes who put their bodies on the line week after week. I'm sure the top players make a good living, but they get scant reward for their efforts compared to some of the prima donnas in other modern day sports, and the least they deserve is the full backing of the country they represent. We can expect the RL community to be behind the lads all the way but even if you're neutral or indifferent to the game, give it a go and cheer the boys on.

    Come on England!

  • Comment number 48.

    33. At 4:28pm on 23 Oct 2008, Ultra_Vires wrote:
    "Union and League. Chess and Checkers.

    Some posters above have noted how League is non-stop and Union has more stoppages. Non-stop of the same boring stuff though. Guy gets ball and runs into brick wall. Guy gets ball and runs into brick wall. Same old story every time.

    I wouldn't expect League fans to understand all the intricacies of Union. There are so many interesting facets to the 15 man game. And yes kicking is one of them. So what?"

    You seem to have missed the reasonably large number of posts from former and current Union people who are very much interested in League.

    It's easy to trot out the old stereotypes to make yourself feel better. But that's all they are - stereotypes. Many League fans understand all to well the intricacies of League - let's face it, most League fans are far better versed in the 15 man code than Union fans are in the 13 man code. Many of them have played both, which is more than can be said of the more insular and bigoted of the Union fraternity - of which we seem to have an unfortunately large community on this blog.

  • Comment number 49.

    45. At 9:48pm on 23 Oct 2008, olgalover wrote:
    "I am only assuming that you are including New Zealand in this - who have one team that plays in the Australian NRL?"

    Does this somehow negate the fact that they are a professional team in New Zealand? And hence the sport is played professionally in that country?

    There are only two pro Union teams in Scotland, and a handful in Wales and Ireland. Should we therefore discount Union in the Celtic nations? I don't think so, so I'm unsure as to why you should try to discount NZ as a country where League is played professionally.

  • Comment number 50.

    Would you compare the rugby union against the football world cup?

    Please do not compare the rugby union and rugby league world cups, they are two different sports.

    I look forward to watching a few of the top league games in the tournament.

  • Comment number 51.

    Unfortunately you are wrong about all of Australia being excited about the cup. Only people in New South Wales and Queensland really care about RL. Here in Melbourne block buster Aussie rules fixtures easily draw over 60,000 people to a game, even the Melbourne Victory football team gets over 20,000 on a regular basis in the A-league. Compared to the Melbourne Storm NRL team only average gates of 10 - 15,000 at home despite the fact that they have been the dominant team in the league for the past 3 years running. Despite a huge amount of advertising for the Australia v England fixture here no one is even talking about it.

    That doesn't take anything away from the business model though and the sporting cultures in NSW and QLD are vastly different so yes it will be profitable and be a good event. COME ON ENGLAND!

  • Comment number 52.

    The Rugby League World Cup - a month of games to decide which of two teams loses to Australia in the final.

  • Comment number 53.

    To number six "rhino in a tiger wonderland"

    its people like you and posts like

    "But don't get me wrong, I want the game to progress....I pray that it progresses because this truly is the greatest sport to both play and watch."

    that put many people off of the sport, instead of just a blanket statement of your opinion as if it was fact what you should be doing is telling others why you THINK it is great.

    For example say to a union fan "if u like union i recon you willlike this as well. come along and watch a game and see what you think".

    It is the arrogance of the RL that theirs is the greatest game no questions asked that puts others off the sport and leads them to riddicule us and the sport.

  • Comment number 54.

    I have to put my hand up as another southern that enjoys Rugby League. I started watching RL pretty much on the back of the GB/NZ test series last year. I had just started playing Rugby Union again after a long break and found that League is as much fun to watch as Union, just in different ways. They are both great games.
    I cannot understand the comments made by Union fans that League in inferior, especially as a lot of us play a form of League during Union training sessions (Touch or even 'Hold').
    Likewise I cannot understand the comments made by League fans that Union in inferior, it IMHO is a more complex game but that gives it it's own advantages, especially in the spread of body types that can play the game.
    Lets face it, whatever the type of Rugby it is - at least it isn't 'Football'.

  • Comment number 55.

    "Its called the world series as its named after the world newspaper which sponsored the series when it began. "

    That is a myth. It was called the World Series as it was intended to find the best team in the world (at a time when Baseball was played exclusively in the USA).

    The sponsorship myth is a recent phenomenen, presumably designed to rebuff jeers about the name.

    Having said that, there is nothing wrong with the title World Series (ather than being slightly anachronistic).

  • Comment number 56.


    "RL World Cup has the same validity in world sport as the World Series in Baseball. That means it is a joke"

    RL World Cup - multi-nation
    Baseball World Series - one country (OK, very occassionally a Canadian team feature

    Therefore this is a rubbish comparison just like the whole comment.

    If you don't like Rugby League, don't watch it. It doesn't need the likes of you anyway. People who think soccer is the only game on earth - they are the joke.

  • Comment number 57.

    Why dont the organisers let The West Indies and Lebanon in beacause i think this is unfair number of teams:
    4 in Group A:
    New Zealand
    Papua New Guinea
    3 in Group B:
    (The West Indies)*
    3 in Group C:
    counties in () with a * = Should have bean also picked.
    So can some one tell me why The West indies cant do their Rugby League World Cup debute and why they did not let in Lebanon please?

  • Comment number 58.

    As an avid Rugby union fan, obviously my allegiance lies in the union code and also the union world cup, but I still love watching league and am looking forward to the League world cup.

    As a sport, its powerful, skilful, brutal and entertaining and pulling it altogether in one tournament is without doubt always going to be the right thing. As for the “there’s no point, because there is always only one winner” point of view, I entirely disagree. As with any sport, the only way any nation will build and improve, is to play against better and more organised nations. Using a union example, you only have to look at how Italy and Argentina have come on in recent years to see this working.

    I still hold out hope the league world cup will be brought ‘home’ (!?) to the Northern Hemisphere and will be glued to the set supporting any NH side!

  • Comment number 59.

    I have been watching and playing league for 20 years, and due to my local team folding i have took up playing Union. IT IS BORING!!! Kick, penalty, kick, lineout, kick penalty penalty. Absolute rubbish, no big hits, no flowing moves, nothing. Just stop start constantly. If Union comes on TV, i turn it over. I have been bred into league, and am still giving union a chance, but the games lacks action.


    Well done Wilko, you can kick, but apart from that it was naff.

    Entertainment = RUGBY LEAGUE

  • Comment number 60.

    I disagree that RL is only a sport for the North of England.
    I support Saracens RU club and many years ago tried out for the team.
    I still watch them when I have the chance; however I love RL with a passion and have been a season ticket holders for Leeds since moving up North 5 years ago. I simply can't wait for the World Cup to begin and feel its about time we had a channel on Sky dedicated to Rugby what ever it's shape or form.
    However if I were given the choice I would go with RL everytime; it's quicker and far more entertaining which is how it should be.
    Year on year RL is growing and with the passion of fans behind it will continue to do so despite the credit crunch.
    Come on boys, do us proud.

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm an Englishman living in Melbourne, probably the most successful league city in the most successful league country. When the Melbourne Storm got to the grand final (even before they lost) there was no press coverage. What does it say about league rugby when the only team covering 5,000,000 can't attract an audience?

  • Comment number 62.

    For the person asking about West Indies & Leb not being in this World cup.

    Leb did not qualify they were beaten by Samoa in a play off.

    The WI decided not to qualify this time around and focus on devlopment. They were due to play USA, South Africa and Japan.

    Other teams that didnt make it were, Netherlands, Georgia, Russia, Wales, Cook Islands and Serbia

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    The reason that there has been, rather randomly a Lebanese team is due to the very large numbers of lebanes immigrants in Australia...especially Sydney.

  • Comment number 65.

    61. At 1:23pm on 24 Oct 2008, moowahaha wrote:
    "I'm an Englishman living in Melbourne, probably the most successful league city in the most successful league country. When the Melbourne Storm got to the grand final (even before they lost) there was no press coverage. What does it say about league rugby when the only team covering 5,000,000 can't attract an audience?"

    It says the Melbourne media is generally hostile towards the game, as it's the only other contender in a two-way battle between AFL and League for the hearts and minds of sports fans in the Australian winter months.

    Union, for example, gets rather pathetic viewing figures by comparison - and that's with no dilution of the support in the major cities due to a mere 4 (?) teams - in fact, there is no top-level Union team in Melbourne. The last attempt to place one there lasted about one season as part of the ill-advised ARC, which collapsed under disinterest and large debts.

  • Comment number 66.

    It has been weighted so that the big three plus a very useful Papua New Guinea side are in Pool One. This guarantees competitive, heavyweight fixtures every weekend, with three teams qualifying for the last four. Six other nations comprise Pool Two and Pool Three. The winners from each will meet in a play-off for the final semi-final spot. The advantage of this is that the competition should avoid many of the processional and extremely boring hammerings that both rugby codes have suffered from in the past. Tonga's match against Samoa in Pool Two, for example, has the look of a very tasty group decider.


    Sorry but no, Pool One will see six meaningless games as there is no way that PNG will live with the others, the inter-top-3 games are pointless as all three will qualify.

    A much better and simpler two groups of 5 approach with only the group winners going to the final would have been better.

    Put three automatic places next time up for grabs, the two finalists and the winner of a playoff between the 2nd and 3rd place teams. That way everyone has soemthing to play for up until the last game.

  • Comment number 67.

    mightywarrywarry: 59

    Yet another example of the kind of rugby league fan who puts others off the game.

    Can we please get past the egotistical view that RL is better than everything else just cos we like it.

    Ok you dont like RU but to just state its boring adds nothing other than to annoy the RU fans who will then end up hating RL even more because they think all fans are lie this.

    If we want to get a wider fan base and to promote the game on the world stage we should concentrate on showing others what our sport does well.

    Not act childishly and tell any one and everyone their sport is rubbish cos its not rugby league!

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm looking forward to the Aussie rules world cup - one team, one country, NO interest!

    Come on guys and gals, Aussie rules football is worse than a bad joke. It is a true ghetto sport that no-one outside Australia has ANY interest in. The only reason it has spread outside the provinces of Victoria at all over the last few years is because Australia is an inward looking nation that is trying to build national mythologies. Aussie rules is a totem for the nascent national self-confidence of our Aussie brethren and good look to them, sport. Australia is a young nation desperate to find its feet and scrabbling around for a sense of unity between the states. What better way then for all those native born Aussies and the millions of immigrants who become Australians to show their love for the mother country than by embracing a sport with the word Australian in the title?

    As a stand alone sport, however, it resembles a shambolic drunken free for all, a descent into the chaotic and frenzied playground sports we all made up at school - in short, an embarrassment.

    Rugby League may have been conceived in England but it was born in Australia. The great game of Northern Union Rugby that was born in 1895 became the greatest game of Rugby League in AUSTRALIA in 1908.

    Let's celebrate that birth for the next four weeks - Viva the world cup and Viva Rugby League!

  • Comment number 69.

    Good luck to England rugby league, the super league game and attendances have grown year on year - we do need to test the water with Internationals so let's hope the world cup is a success.

    If the RU people don't like the game why comment? I would not be interested if this column was about their game, it is boring enough if you can stand to watch a game without wasting time with some of the comments.

    I have a friend who played RU and he told me the crowds are dwindling, is this true?

  • Comment number 70.

    i live in Perth WA and you wouldn't even know its on!

  • Comment number 71.

    Madmanchatter, I totally agree with your sentiments (67), but some of the time you're apparently talking to yourself. Immediately after your post comes another childish, generalised, ignorant tirade, this time against Aussie Rules. Passionate leaguie as I am, I will never tire of contesting (41) the 'arguments' of ignorami like Ultra Vires (33). But the poster of (68) is exactly in the same category. What little AFL I've managed to see on tv brings in tremendous crowds, so there is obviously an appeal in the sport. Now once again, we all love our own code, and I will always argue why I prefer league to union or association football, but to make silly provocative comments on these or any sports, (which I still watch in order to give my comments substance), gets us nowhere.

  • Comment number 72.

    Great post comebackdevils, im glad someone else can see that by constantly saying other sports are cr@p our fans are hurting our potential fanbase not helping it.

    I am sports obsessed and will watch almost anything, and it bugs me that many fans (of all sports not just RL) are unwilling to see the merits of other sports just because its different to their favourite.

  • Comment number 73.

    comebackdevils: You're quite the grown up crusader. Well done.

  • Comment number 74.

    Rugby League is the greatest team sport on earth in my opinion but even I think this world cup will be a disaster. I don't think we learnt from the last one and the only reason the Aussuies are bothered about it is because it's being played in their own back yard.
    Also the never ending merry go round of players changing nationalities is a joke. How can you be ready to play for one country and then change your mind when another country asks you to play for them? RU fans must be laughing themsleves silly already.
    I really do think that it should be a rouind robin of Great Britain, Australia & New Zealand played every 4 years. In between bring back the Ashes!

  • Comment number 75.

    comebackdevils - you're absolutely spot on.

    I'm quite happy watching either code of rugby, and have been known to show an interest in the odd game of football (that's soccer to any non-Europeans reading) and cricket. I'm also partial to boxing.

    I see nothing of value in the inane bickering we frequently see on this blog.

  • Comment number 76.

    Davegj thanks for that infomation Now I just lernt that The West Indies instead not qulifying they withdrew i went on to wikipedia to see who was in the qulifying stages, well I have to say well done for making your debut as this was like your only chance West Indies and I was also suprised when I went on wikipedia that even South Africa Withdrew from the qulifying so for that i want Both Lebanon and Russia or Wales to go on but now it is to late and well cant the countries make there minds up if they are doing the qulifying stages or if they are going to withdraw from the qulifying stages and that is what i call unorginised rugby league teams for the fist time even with a debuton country like the West Indies who pulled out of the qulifying stages for no apparent reason at all and this is diabolical organisation but still it is there dicistion and we cannot force them to enter the compertition when it is on and probabley both Sout Africa and The West Indies were not ready in time or just wanted to focus on rugby union and cricket that they both do.

  • Comment number 77.

    Am not a Rugby League fan, but am wondering...why is there any need to justify the Rugby League world cup?

    Many sports carry out their world cups without the extensive media coverage granted to football without this detracting from the achievement of the victors and the enjoyment of spectators (After all, sport is still not just about money and TV rights)

  • Comment number 78.

    Yet another sport which has decided it needs a "World Cup" title to give it some unmerited cachet. Rugby League at it's best is a breathtaking sport and spectacle but trying to make it appear a global sport when it's purely a British Isles/Australasia phenomenon is at best desperate and at worst plain fraudulent.

  • Comment number 79.

    I have been living in the US for the past 5 years and miss my RL (I also miss Union and Football). Some of the comments on here are so misguided and provocative when there is absolutely no need for it.

    You think you have it bad over there! Try watching sports that have a commercial break every 5 minutes and in between have time outs!! Go figure, as they would say over here.

    Good luck to all teams but especially England of course.

  • Comment number 80.

    With League being Professional for 113 years, what has it done with itself? Got one/two major superpowers in the sport and an almost foregone conclusion as to who is going to win the 10 team World Cup. League has removed the contest for possession in order to maximise the ball in play time. League ONLY exists in League 'hotspots' (e.g. North England).

    Whereas Union has been professional for 13 years (a whole CENTURY) less, and it has a 20 team World Cup with at least 7 teams in a shout to win it and massive revenues generated with several professional leagues. Union is played in every continent with several International Tournaments for each tier of nations. Union has competition for the ball, a good ball in play time and fiercely competitive International matches. Union exists not only in Union 'hotspots' but also in League 'hotspots'. This is where the game is developed: a whole nation playing a sport, not just isolated parts like in England and France.

  • Comment number 81.

    Clearly the person who posted this blog
    does not realise the benefits of this world cup.
    with this world cup we are putting the 13 a side game on a map wkith the world
    and can compete with the cross code
    anf may possibly be the dominant sport.

    for a change

  • Comment number 82.

    I try to watch RL when it's on BBC (the Challenge Cup, etc) but I always end up turning off around 1/2 time. It's just too tedious, too end to end. That may not initially seem bad, but it's akin to American sports where it's one team trying to score and they either do or they don't and it's back to the other end with the other team. And the 6 tackles thing is too artificial. Give me proper tackling, scrumming, rucking... RL just seems like the wimpier, poor relation.

    If you want to expand interest then try North America, it would fit right in.

    I speak as someone who, when younger, preferred watching RL to RU, but now it just seems dull and tired.

  • Comment number 83.

    Rugby League in Melbourne faces several difficulties.
    The media in Melbourne finds it difficult to give space to any code other than the AFL. The Sydney media cannot understand that for the game to grow their Sydney centric view and their anti Melbourne comments is unhelpful to the development of RL.

    The AFL in Australia and Super League in the UK put the NRL to shame for the lack of development plans. It is great to see that SL support teams in France, the Celtic Crusaders and that League exists in Ireland.
    The NRL does not have the foresight to ask its TV partner to provide unbiased commentary.

    Union still benefits from its past ' amateur' image but the last game I saw Wallabies v Ireland was poor entertainment. Indeed the Wallabies suffer from a lack of a national competition.

    Rugby League is growing in the UK and Europe and whilst Australia may win this world cup, unless there is more vision in Sydney, the game will be left behind here.

  • Comment number 84.


    There was a comment earlier about rugby league domestic attendances being higher - that is a myth and hasn't been correct for quite some time.

    The Guinness Premeirship overtook the average Super League attendance in the first couple of years of this century and have moved further ahead since the last survey done in 2005.

    At that time the Guinness Premierhsip was 9,978 while Super League was 8,570.

    Union also has the best supported club with Leicester Tigers, League occupied the bottom four positions for attendance.

    Regarding winners of World football only 7 teams have ever won the Football World Cup despite all the times it has happened.

    The Rugby World Cup has been played 6 times and four different teams have won it, which shows up well compared to football. The last 5 Rugby League 'World Cups' have been won by.....Australia.

    One other league is not a north of England game.

    It is played in West Yorkshire and East Lancashire. There are more Rugby Union clubs in Lancashire than there are League clubs and in Yorkshire though there are about 20 more League clubs in the county than union, but (and I haven't checked this) union tend to have more teams within a club and therefore I would bet there are far more union players in Yorkshire than League players.

    Yorkshire is also Rugby union's 'biggest' county.


  • Comment number 85.

    What makes you follow the tiny game that is rugby league when they are surrounded by the global phenomena that is football, Aka the World Game??? The sport that you follow is nothing more than a pathetic MICRO sport realistically played in only five nations. While the game that I and the rest of the world follows is the number 1 sport in 221 countries, number 2 sport in 30 countries and the sport played in a total of 264 nations.

    Our world cup stops the nations, a world cup Twice bigger than the Olympic games compared to your world cup that not even the competing or host nation gives a shit about.

    England: Hull and Wigan belongs to football

    AUSTRALIA PREDICTIONS: Soccer is more popular that Rugby League in 4 out of 6 Australian states. With regular appearances at the Football World Cup, expect not just football overtaking rugby league, but football being the number one sport in Australia.

    NEW ZEALAND PREDICTIONS: Football is the third most popular sport in NZ, but if they keep becoming the champions of the Oceania region and beating the 5th best Asian Nation expect Football to replace Rugby League as the Number 2 sport behind Rugby Union.

    Rugby League cannot expand anymore

    Rugby League will never be popular outside of Northern England, Png Aus & NZ. If it cannot even expand to South Aus or WA, how do you expect other countries to take this seriously. Rugby League in France is still an extremely relatively a minority sport with 10,000 Rugby League players compared with Soccer’s 2.5 Million.

    As for Soccer its already the number 1 sport in 221 nations

    If Australia qualifies in 3 WCs for the nxt 20 yrs
    If NZ qualifies
    If Australia hosts or wins the World Cup

    Football will be the new number 1 sport in Australia, and Number 2 in NZ. With RL going further down the rankings in New Zealand to Number 3 as they will realise through qualification that the Football World Cup is a far more important event than to watch a Warriors match or a NZ playing a small number of Rugby League nations.

    So this is as good as it gets for Rugby League only popular in Northern England, South Eastern France, Eastern Australia, NZ and PNG. Outside of these areas it will never be popular. Soccer is bigger and will continue to grow in Australia.

  • Comment number 86.

    Rugby League may think it competes with OZ Rules but it loses by a massive margin. Its a Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland game plus poor parts of Britain.
    Manly played great league at the end of the Australian season but generally the British competion is more entertaining TV.
    This World Cup will only be watched by the
    die hard fans.

  • Comment number 87.

    Rugby League is a joke and so as its world cup

  • Comment number 88.

    It is played in West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.

    Realairborne I'm not going to argue figures,for me it's the game which is important but I think you're wrong with your regions.

    If you ever come to Hull and mention rugby it's league people will think you're talking about.We have 2 superleague clubs & a host of amateur clubs.

    Laydee from East Yorkshire

  • Comment number 89.

    Yeah but still its only a regional sport right? Is it big outside of Yorkshire, Lancashire????

  • Comment number 90.

    I'm one of those idiots who loves both codes but my first love is RU. I will watch and enjoy the RLWC, I'm an avid Sale Sharks fan and attend all the home games and most away games. I'm also an avid Leeds Rhinos fan and get to watch them when I can. I live in Wigan and find that they are very vitriolic when it comes to Union. This I don't understand, both are great sports played with courage skill and commitment. As for football, the Worlds no 1 sport, I watched it for years, it was my no 1 sport, used to think life wouldn't be worth living without football but now I cant stand the thing, I think the descriptions of Wendyball and Poofball are very apt. I converted to Rugby years ago through my son-in-law who played first class Rugby Union and found the whole ethos of rugby amazing and very appealing. In all my years going to watch Union I have never herd or seen any effin and jeffin, feigning injury to get an opponent sent off, screaming like a loon at the ref, diving, pouting etc etc etc
    The thing is that in both codes you can't play the game half heartedly you would get crushed. Rugby is played by men not wimps.

  • Comment number 91.

    Oh well, MadMancHatter, you and I and others tried! The majority of these blogs are considered and reasoned, but now we've got more and more of the pointless, childish "Nya nya, your sport is a joke!" type comments.

    Leaguies have to accept that rugby league is nowehere near as popular worldwide as union and even less so than football, but so what? Coronation Street is more popular than, say, The Sopranos, and The Sun newspaper is more popular than, say, The Independent, but I would argue that popularity does not necessarily mean greater quality.

  • Comment number 92.

    Can't read all the comments - at least there's a lot, which means people aren't ignoring this.

    I always enjoy blog commenters that say RL is like 15 robots... 15? Also people comparing RL World Cup to the World Series of Baseball, or the Baseball World Championship, where baseball already has run a professional World Classic with 16 countries - and no, the USA didn't win, nor even make the final.

    This kind of dazzling knowledge moves me to comment as well.

    I'm also not a northerner, the furthest north I've been in my life is London. I'm from Plymouth, and we play football, basketball, union, gridiron and league, and have done for a long time, because we take notice of the world and are open minded and see the value to human beings of sport - let's leave the small-mindedness to Hull FC and KR fans, or to self-opinionated sports blog commenters.

    My personal little disappointment was the qualifying structure for Lebanon - beat Wales, but lost to Samoa - Scotland only had to beat Wales, and might not have beaten Samoa either.

    I have also been disappointed with RL's lack of progress since 1995 when the gun went off, union sped away and RL stood still. But I'm confident that rational minds that care for the sport and good governance will lever this thing into movement. To RL fans - enjoy and be proud of your sport.

    As for why, I think RL is much better for kids to play. Ironic that a lot of major RL players were forced to start with union - that's almost back to front.

  • Comment number 93.

    Number 80. I'm not sure if this is correct but I thought Rugby League has only been played full time professionally since 1996 when Super League began. Up until then I thought players were part time and had other jobs? Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, it might only be the case for certain teams, but that would make it 12 years- 1 year less than Union been played full time professionally. Wouldn't part time teams be classed as semi-professional?

    Number 85, Australia will never win the football World Cup, definetly not any time soon. New Zealand won't even qualify. Therefore Rugby League stands a much bigger chance of becoming even more popular. Football doesn't(if we go by your argument). Also I think RL fans choose to watch their sport instead of football because they get value for money. They can see players smashing into eachother, busting their heads open with blood spurting everywhere and the game won't stop. The players just get on with it and keep throwing themselves into the action... I think everyone would agree with the contrast of football players, so much as sneeze near one and they get carried off on a stretcher, thus prolonging the boredom even longer.
    Number 84- sorry no. Leeds Rhinos are the best supported Rugby Team of either code in the U.K. At times I've been to Headingley and the crowd as surpassed 22,000, pushing 23000 on many occasions. I went to Uni in Leicester, I went to several matches and I can't remember the crowd been over 13000 at any time.- Besides, the capacity of Welford Road isn't even 18,000, Headingley is around 22 and a half Thousand. So you can argue against it, but it would be impossible for the Tigers to pull a bigger crowd. Simple as.

    Also viewing figures for Rugby League showed over 50% were from the South last year.

  • Comment number 94.

    (South of England)

  • Comment number 95.

    I think some of the posters on here need to be clear that pointing out that the RL world cup is a weak competition is not an attack on the sport itself.

    Hope RL organisers can build a stronger contest in future, but I'm not sure how many nations have a strong enough RL culture to put a strong and sustainable (and largely homegrown) national side together.

    I don't think that you need a huge number of teams capable of winning the tournament to make it worthwhile and entertaining, but the teams playing do need a sustainable support base and league structure to grow the sport in the long term.

  • Comment number 96.

    '...League is every bit as popular as rugby union'

    Patently not true. Nowhere in Australia is Union more than a diversion played by the professional classes. League and Aussie Rules are, depending on which state you inhabit, the national games, with soccer catching up fast because of the large migrant population (yes I know all of Australia's population is migrant, but you take the point)

    The tournament doesn't need to justify itself, so this is a pointless discussion. Goodnight.

  • Comment number 97.

    Give it up. There isn't enough space on the world stage for both union and league. The World Cup should be finalised in 2013, with the probable winners Australia being crowned undisputed champions of all time and then future games at the international level played in tri-series or similar format. League will always be popular in australia and england, but it should be a breeding ground for future union players on the international stage. Consolidation of two such simliar sports in the global marketplace is inevitable, and union won this international battle long ago.

  • Comment number 98.

    I'm sure you're right, Greenthinker(97), when you say that 'consolidation of two such similar sports is inevitable'. Well, highly likely, if not inevitable. I used to scoff at the idea that a hybrid form of the two codes could one day be the norm; but the way rugby union has developed before 1995 and especially since then, I can well see this being the case before the 22nd century. Tell you what, though: I know which one of the two present codes this hybrid will most likely resemble, and I think by then it will have less than 15 men in a team.

  • Comment number 99.

    Some of he above posters complain about the size of the RLWC and its potential 3 team winners but I dont see the point.

    Football is a MASSIVE sport, yet its world cup is mainly won by Germany, Italy, Brazil, France and Argentina. The best teams win World Cups. Cricket, and Union are both generally won by predictbale teams as well but no one complains. The 100m sprint is nearly always won by USA, (and now Jamaica as well) but no one says its worthless...
    Enjoy the game for what it is.

    The World Cup format although a little confusing initially is designed to give good games, and so far so good. Ireland Tonga was a real battle (with dodgy reffing).

    As for the international development, one needs look no further than Lebanon. In the 2000 WC it was a team of Aussie/Lebanese heritage players, but building on that appearance, League is now played in Lebanon and a fully domestic based team just played against Russia and Serbia. They were extremely unlucky not to qualify for this WC, with Ireland qualifying instead of them, despite having failed to beat Lebanon twice, and in fact coming from behind in both their games to equalise in the last minute.

    So lets enjoy good Rugby League and leave the sniping to others.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.