Forget restructuring – it’s time to bang the World Cup drum

The announcement that England will play a first ever Test match against Italy on Saturday 19 October is a welcome reminder that we’re fast approaching rugby league’s biggest competition.

In a year when all attention should be focused on the World Cup, talk of restructuring Super League has become the dominant topic of discussion – and despair.

But look past the fog of 12s into eights, two 12s or two 10s, and it’s not difficult to start getting seriously excited about the World Cup. 

Fourteen teams, the world’s best players and a bucket-load of skill; what’s not to love?

There are still concerning silences over certain parts of the World Cup, but those are issues for organisers rather than fans.

If you can’t get worked up about the prospect of seeing the sport’s elite athletes knocking seven bells out of each other over a five-week period, perhaps you’re watching the wrong sport.

International competition is the driver of most commercially successful sports. It’s also the easiest way to develop national interest, which British rugby league now needs more than ever as its profile continues to diminish.

The 2011 Four Nations was a fantastic tournament. Remember the atmospheres at Wembley, the KC Stadium and Elland Road?

Imagine what will happen if England actually deliver the goods this time around.

Just think of George Burgess stampeding over some poor Aussie. That’s surely enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Of course, reality needs bringing into it: England will probably start as third favourites. Australia will probably win it.

But it’s got the potential to be an awful lot closer than it has been for a long while, and England could yet surprise us all and actually deliver when it matters most.

And frankly, it just makes a nice change to be thinking about on-field action rather than off-field politics.

Having said all that, forgive me for a quick thought on restructuring. What’s the obsession with playing more league games?

We know revenue is an issue and clubs demand a certain number of home games in order to balance the books. Fine.

In that case, introduce more trophies. Bring back a second Cup competition. Extend the World Club Challenge. Just don’t waste time with more of the same, which is the only outcome of the plan to stretch Super League to at least 30 games.

More trophies equals more opportunities to generate sponsorship, more teams getting their hands on silverware, and the freedom to reduce Super League to either 22 or 18 regular matches, depending on whether you drop to 12 or 10 teams.

It’s really not that difficult.

Got any thoughts? Will you be at the World Cup – or are you giving it a miss because club rugby is your true passion? Drop a comment in the box below and let us know.

Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough

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