England set to play France in Toulouse mid-season as RL Commercial boss provides latest on Samoa series

Drew Darbyshire
England celebrate after 3-0 series win over Tonga - Alamy

England celebrate after 3-0 series win over Tonga - Alamy

England are set to play France in a mid-season test in Toulouse, RL Commercial managing director Rhodri Jones has revealed.

England are yet to have any games locked in for 2024, but that could soon be about to change.

The Rugby Football League and RL Commercial are close to finalising details that will see Shaun Wane’s side travel to Toulouse to face France in June, whilst they are hopeful their proposed autumn series against Samoa will go ahead.

Speaking at a press event at the RFL‘s headquarters in Manchester this morning, Jones revealed they are ironing out the final details surrounding their mid-season trip across the Channel.

“There was a call with the French last week to just finalise terms, so it would happen the last weekend of June, which I think is the 29th, a Saturday, for a men’s and women’s double-header,” Jones said.

“I think the French are celebrating a birthday anniversary this year so we see it as a celebration, and I think it will be in Toulouse.”

RL Commercial boss provides the latest on England’s proposed home test series with Samoa

England v Samoa Rugby League World Cup St James' Park Alamy Samoa perform the Siva Tau ahead of the 2021 World Cup opener against England at St James’ Park – Alamy

Talks between England and Samoa are ongoing over the prospect of the Pacific nation coming over to the northern hemisphere for a test series this autumn.

Samoa initially declined England’s invitation, leaving Wane’s side without a confirmed game in 2024, but talks have now re-opened, with the RFL and RL Commercial hopeful the series will be given the green light.

Jones added: “We were due to catch up before Christmas with Samoa, the IRL and the NRL, and that got delayed until they came back from Christmas holidays which is today, so I’m expecting a call with them over the next fortnight, at which point we’ll be able to have a healthy conversation with all the relevant stakeholders.”

Jones says he understands why Samoa initially turned down the invitation to come over to England again – just two years after reaching the Rugby League World Cup final for the first time, but is optimistic talks can be resolved and that the series will go ahead.

“I know the IRL have spoken to them and I know the NRL have spoken to them to understand the reasoning behind that kind of announcement as to why they didn’t want to come,” Jones continued.

“I think they’ve got some challenges which they want to be heard – one is they’d really like to play a home fixture, which is understandable.

“And uptaking to the northern hemisphere is a pretty big deal for them and it costs money, as Tonga found out. We covered the costs for a lot of stuff but in terms of player payments and stuff like that, that’s up to the nation to pay, so there’s some financial challenges there as well.”

‘Our priority is to get Samoa here this year’ – Rhodri Jones

Jones insists the RFL‘s priority is to lock in England‘s proposed series with Samoa for this autumn, with a view to touring Australia in 2025, the World Cup in 2026 and a series against New Zealand in 2027.

He said: “Our priority is to get Samoa here this year. If that doesn’t come off, we have to find England some competitive fixtures. What that looks like is to be confirmed and your next question is probably going to be around next year with the two teams (men and women) going to Australia, that’s certainly in the plan.

“The discussion in Singapore (IRL board meeting) back in September was around it’s not just around England playing Australia in three test matches, there will need to be perhaps one or two other games, so that opens up the possibility of playing a Samoa, Tonga or a Papua New Guinea in their homeland on that tour.”

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