Despite the pleasure in seeing Widnes academy product Richie Myler go in for a record points haul in an international against France, this “test” match exposed yet more frailties in the world of international rugby league, as we continue to fight a losing battle in competing for a global audience.
It appears someone somewhere believes rugby league cannot exist as a thriving domestic sport alone, and that it must be played globally to receive any recognition.
This has resulted in the inclusion of French teams (PSG and Catalans) and a Welsh team (Celtic) in to the previously English top flight.
While Catalans have enjoyed some success on the field – reaching the Challenge Cup Final in 2007 – they are only one team. The French national side is made up mainly of Dragons’ players, but this alone isn’t enough to sustain a successful international side.
France flopped at the World Cup yet are expected to now compete in the revamped Four Nations in the autumn. Prior to this brainwave, the Tri Nations had actually established itself as a respected and competitive competition, not just within rugby league, but as a global sporting competition.
The way Bobbie Goulding’s men are looking, that respectability may just disappear. The good work may be undone. He claims that he’s looking at the eligibility of Clint Greenshields amongst others in the Catalans squad.
But this defeats the object of expansion and Catalans’ inclusion in Super League, if they’re going to rely on Australians, albeit decent standard ones.
Realistically, there’s just three international sides that are made up of their own players – Australia, England and New Zealand – while the others merely rely on players not good enough to represent their home country. Papua New Guinea may make it, at a push.
People point to the existence of one Kiwi side in the NRL, but the difference is the remaining NRL sides are all full of Kiwis, as are many Super League teams, which means a large talent pool for Stephen Kearney to choose from.
Rugby union is light years ahead of us in terms of international rugby, but why can’t we focus on promoting a thriving domestic game, rather than adding embarrassment to our sport with shoddily-organised World Cups consisting of Australian and English A, B and C teams.
However, we have an international programme set up for the next few years which has promise. As long as it’s tackled in the right way, we may have a respected international game.
Let’s hope France don’t let us down this autumn.