Ashes contest scheduled for Four Nations

The Gillette Four Nations encounter between England and Australia in October will also be a battle for the rugby league “Ashes”.

The Australian Rugby League has agreed to give England a chance to win the Ashes title.

The two sides will meet at Wigan’s DW Stadium on October 31st in the Four Nations tournament, which also involves France and World Cup holders New Zealand.

ARL chairman Geoff Carr confirmed that the fixture would be a contest for the Ashes, saying, “We decided we will put the trophy on the line.”

Carr also said that the two sides would compete for the Ashes for the next three years, but said a meeting between the two sides in a Four Nations final would not count.

“There was some suggestion the Ashes be decided based on however many games we play in a given season, but we can’t say for sure that England or Australia would make a Four Nations final,” he continued.

The news will not be met with universal approval: England coach Tony Smith and former Great Britain boss Brian Noble have both spoken out against the idea.

“I think it devalues the challenge,” said Noble, who also played for Great Britain.

“We’ve shown over the last 25 years that we can beat Australia in a one-off game – I’ve coached a team that has beaten them at Sydney Football Stadium, their own ground, and there is no finer feeling.

“But I think the challenge of the Ashes is to beat them in a three-match rubber. I genuinely feel that.” 
Current England coach Smith agreed with Noble’ assessment, saying, “I’d prefer it as a stand-alone contest rather than as part of another tournament.”

However, the move has gained the support of England players such as captain Jamie Peacock and Jon Wilkin.

Australia have held the Ashes since 1974 – the latest victory a 3-0 whitewash in 2003 – but there are no plans to hold a Test series in the new international programme.

The Ashes trophy, currently on display in the National Museum in Canberra, will be flown to England for the Four Nations encounter.

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