Bristol finally gets its World Cup legacy

Bristol's Memorial Stadium hosted the World Cup match between USA and Cook Islands in 2013.

Four years ago, Bristol hosted its first Rugby League World Cup game.

The USA, led by the excellent Joseph Paulo, recorded a 32-20 win in front of an encouraging 7,247 crowd at the Memorial Stadium.

It was a historic occasion, the first World Cup game ever for the Americans, a country that hopes to have its first professional team entered in to League 1 next season.

Bristol had been considered somewhat of a wildcard amongst the 21 host stadia, with the rest being major grounds or home of existing rugby league clubs, with the exception of Limerick’s Thomond Park.

They should have already had a presence in Championship One at that stage, though the decision was made to take one of the new expansion sides up the road to Gloucestershire instead.

It is the All Golds club established there that has apparently merged with Oxford to create the new Bristolian venture, which is expected to join League 1 in 2019, giving it a year to get suitably prepared.

Though details on the new club are sparse, there are murmurings that Bristol Sport could be involved somewhere along the line, the organisation that owns and operates Bristol City football club, Bristol rugby union club and Bristol Flyers basketball.

Given the inroads made by Toronto Wolfpack in the past 12 months, there is a clear formula for success for clubs ambitious enough to take the expansion opportunity with both hands.

There is of course already an established rugby league presence in Bristol, with community side Bristol Sonics having been founded back in 2002, and their origins can be dated back to the 1980s.

Crucially, the Sonics would appear supportive of the professional venture, even if it has perhaps come across four years or so later than maybe it should have.

The Sonics said in a statement: “Bristol Sonics welcomes this announcement, which comes almost four years to the day since the Cook Islands faced the USA at the Memorial Stadium in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, and 15 years to the month since the formation of the city’s community club.

“The aim of Bristol Sonics has always been to promote the sport of Rugby League in Bristol by offering opportunities for young people and adults to play the game. This will not change.

“We can confirm that we have briefly spoken to members of the consortium behind this new professional club and are excited by the plans that they have so far outlined to us.

“We look forward to sitting down with them over the coming weeks and months to see how we can work together to strengthen the roots of Rugby League in Bristol and the wider community game in the West of England.

“For the future of our sport in the region it is vital that strong links are created between stakeholders at all levels of the game.”

While we await news on how the league system might look in 2019, it seems that a city battle between Bristol and New York may well be on the cards.

The expansion with ambition trail has been blazed by Toronto and rugby league will be better off if others can find a way to follow their path.

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