Ralph Rimmer on Combined Nations All Stars, regular France tests & Great Britain fixtures

Ricky Leutele in action for Combined Nations All Stars
Ricky Leutele in action for Combined Nations All Stars

England will play the Combined Nations All Stars again in 2022 but this time it will be a stand-alone fixture, says Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer.

The return of the Super League-based Combined Nations All Stars, previously known as the Exiles, was designed to be a warm-up game for England ahead of the 2021 World Cup and it will provide the same function in the run-up to the delayed tournament.The game at Warrington in June, which England lost 26-24, was compromised by the decision of Super League clubs to play a full round of fixtures over the same weekend but Rimmer says a gap has been created in the calendar for it next summer.

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England are also set to play Fiji before the World Cup but Rimmer is hoping competitive men’s and women’s test matches against France in Perpignan on Saturday will pave the way for the return of regular Anglo-French clashes.

Rimmer said: “I thought the All Stars concept on the whole was very successful. A bigger build-up would help us all and a window is in the calendar, so hopefully we can make more of it.”

Regular clashes between England and France

Rimmer added: “I do believe the two French teams are going to provide us with good opposition this weekend.

“Having two teams from France in Super League demonstrates the quality that is available and we’re going to play in in an environment which we know will be pretty partisan. It’s an important building block for our men and women.

“On the back of good games this weekend, I think will get into some fairly regulation competition with the French.”

Rimmer says he is expecting a near sell-out crowd at Stade Gilbert Brutus for the double-header on the back of the Catalans Dragons’ success in winning the League Leaders’ Shield and reaching a first Grand Final in 2021.

A bumper crowd will also boost France’s bid to host the next World Cup in 2025.

Rimmer said: “I’m lucky enough to be involved in the preparation of that bid and I think it would be fantastically exciting to land the World Cup in 2025, on the back of the French having already hosted the Olympics and the Rugby Union World Cup.

“It would be a great shot in the arm for world rugby league.”

Great Britain fixtures

John Bateman in action for Great Britain
John Bateman in action for Great Britain

Rimmers says Great Britain fixtures are pencilled into the next international calendar, which he hopes will be published in the next six months.

He added: “The delay over the World Cup has disrupted the work that had been put into the international calendar.

“It’s a big piece of work involved with cooperation from everybody around the globe but we think the production of an international calendar, which up to this point has been the holy grail of rugby league, is imminent and that will be probably one of the biggest building blocks we can achieve.”

Meanwhile, Rimmer insists the return of England head coach Shaun Wane to a role on the Wigan backroom team, which effectively means he will be part-time with the national team, will not have any adverse effect on preparations for the World Cup.

He commented: “Shaun came to me with the notion of the new arrangement and we talked it through at some length.

“I think it’s good to get Shaun out working a bit more openly. We know his time with us will ebb and flow, and we wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardise our World Cup preparation. I think we will benefit from it.”

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