Analysing who England could play in 2023

Josh McAllister
Jack Welsby England Shaun Wane SWpix

With this year’s international calendar yet to be confirmed, England will now be wondering who they will play next after their mid-season friendly against France.

Love Rugby League editor James Gordon recently researched into the delay of the international calendar, with fans having been promised an announcement mid-year in 2022. However, there are still no signs of an international calendar being confirmed.

England will play France in a double-header in April. While a dispute between the NRL and its players has delayed any future international fixtures being announced for 2023 and beyond.

There had been talks of England hosting New Zealand at the end of the year for a home series. But now both the Kiwis and Australia look set to stay Down Under. So, who could England play in 2023?

Pacific nations

Tonga fans lit up the delayed 2021 World Cup tournament in England, with massive celebrations both inside and outside the grounds during their four fixtures.

Kristian Woolf’s side are ranked #5 in the world and would provide an entertaining and competitive series against England. It would also provide the Tonga community in England to once again support their team with more exceptional scenes. That special atmosphere would furthermore help boost the profile of the sport on TV screens.

Meanwhile, a home series against Samoa might be just what the fans want following their epic semi-final tie at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium last year.

Samoa’s history-making tournament saw them jump above England to #3 in the rankings, and a three-game series would no doubt attract interest and large crowds.

European Championships

The European Championships has confirmed its biggest-ever tournament this autumn, with eight nations set to compete. England have been included, although it could be the Knights to feature if Shaun Wane’s side find an opponent for a test series.

Still, having the senior side feature at the tournament surely isn’t the worst case scenario.

The last time England faced Wales was back in 2012 during the Autumn International Series. They have only ever faced Scotland once – in the 2016 Four Nations.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s latest match against England came during the 2013 World Cup. They have only faced each other three times to date.

Italy, France, Spain and Serbia are also set to feature in the upcoming 2023 European Championships.

Looking at the positives, England competing in this tournament would at least confirm a handful of fixtures at the end of the year – on top of the mid-season game against France.

Although fixtures themselves won’t see the biggest names in the sport play quite like Samoa’s Jarome Luai or Tonga’s Jason Taumalolo, it would allow other home nations to develop their teams and give England much needed international tests.

Looking at the bigger picture, allowing the home nations to compete against the best should only improve them in the long-run, with the next World Cup in 2025. 

Writer’s views

It is a tough one to summarise – and we can only hope those above will confirm fixtures sooner rather than later.

On one hand, a series against a Pacific nation would allow fans this side of the world to once again witness the current best players in the world.

Likewise, it was great to see hundreds of supporters young and old wait after World Cup games to take pictures with the stars of the sport.

But the European Championships would provide a platform for several fixtures and even more, games taken all over the UK – as opposed to the Halliwell Jones Stadium, which has hosted two of England’s four fixtures in the 2020s – excluding the World Cup – and will once again host England versus France in April.

I think it’s fair to say the recent World Cup has whet the appetite for more international fixtures, which is exactly what the European Championships would provide.

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