Exclusive: RFL prepare for crisis talks with international board to map out England plans for 2024

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

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

Senior officials will address an international board meeting this week to try and determine how England fit into the world game’s plans for 2024, with RFL chief Tony Sutton insisting to Love Rugby League that their preference remains for England to have a home series next autumn.

Shaun Wane’s side have been left without an opponent for the end of next season as things stand, after Samoa pulled out of talks to tour England and stage a three-match test series.

Samoa’s preference is believed to be to play in the Pacific Championships, and with almost every other southern hemisphere nation set to do the same, it has cast doubt over whether there will be any sort of meaningful international rugby league on this side of the world.

The RFL and Rugby League Commercial officials Simon Johnson and Rhodri Jones will now hold crisis talks with the international game in a board meeting, with Sutton insisting there is a need for English rugby league to be included in the wider plans for the game.

“We have to ask the questions of people in the room and people around those tables as to what their suggestions would be now for England to get involved in some meaningful rugby league,” Sutton told Love Rugby League.

“We will look to the international federation for their promotion of the game on this side of the world because that’s where the conversations lie.”

England’s preference remains to have games on home soil in 2024

If England had to tour in 2024, it would mean no autumn internationals would take place on home soil until 2027 at the earliest, with the tour of Australia pencilled in for 2025 and a World Cup in 2026.

When asked if they may have to consider that as an option, Sutton said: “Our preference remains, and always has been, home rugby league next year because of what lies ahead.

“But pending the outcome of this meeting, I can’t really answer. I think we’ll have an idea after that meeting about whether there’s an appetite to have someone else come here: either there will be, or there won’t be.

“If there isn’t, we can continue with our other plans. But our aim remains to have international rugby here in England next year.”

France set to host England next year’s mid-season test

Anthony Marion England v France Alamy France are set to host England in a mid-season test in 2024 – Alamy

Sutton also confirmed that as things stand, England are due to travel to France for next year’s mid-season international fixture, and he admitted that would be unlikely to change irrespective of what happens at the end of the season.

When asked about his reaction to Samoa’s withdrawal from touring England next year, Sutton admitted he was ‘gutted’.

“It’s disappointing for us to get that news,” he said.

“We were moving forward with arrangements and agreements and I was gutted, on the back of a 3-0 series win, thinking we were entering into a longer more sustainable period for the international game… I was gutted we wouldn’t have chance to do that.

“We just need some answers now about what we might be able to do next, and this meeting should help us with that.”

Sutton stressed that he felt the 3-0 victory over Tonga was a success on the field, but remained coy about commercial and financial outcomes, saying that was a matter for Rugby League Commercial, rather than the RFL.

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