RLIF chairman believes international rugby league deserves more credit

RLIF chairman Nigel Wood has highlighted the potential of international rugby league, as it embarks on a “two decade” project to develop further.

The weekend saw a raft of international fixtures, with week one of the European Championship taking place, as well as fixtures in the Pacific.

Whilst these games received little mainstream media recognition, Wood insists that their existence shows how much the sport is progressing on the world stage.

“While the sport will receive much greater profile when the top-ranked nations re-emerge next weekend, it is right to draw attention to what is taking place globally at the moment,” said Wood, who was in Dublin to see Ireland‘s win over France on Saturday.

“It is raising the standing of rugby league in major population centres and is an enormous credit to all who are making it happen – and on a scale never before seen.

“When you witness first-hand the energy and effort some of the individuals involved bring, it is both humbling and inspirational.

“The very least they deserve is the kind of coherent and co-ordinated international calendar that gives them a fighting chance to grow and one which other sports seem to be able to deliver for their international sides.

“This is a two decade project that undoubtedly faces some very significant challenges.

“The financial gap needs to be addressed and player workload – particularly at the elite level – be sensitivity and respectfully dealt with to ensure that the magnificent club competitions the sport enjoys continue to fully support the international game.

“International rugby league is capable of more and it is the RLIF’s role to create the environment where it can flourish on a consistent basis.

“The excellence of the Rugby League World Cup in 2013 should be the very minimum standard that we aspire to.”

Wood also believes that more credit should be given to those people and organisations who make international rugby league possible at all.

“It was a wonderful showcase for international rugby league,” he said.

“[Dublin] was an incredibly uplifting experience being in a terrific facility, in front of a decent and appreciative crowd and with a high standard on display; everyone connected with staging the fixture deserves much credit.

“There is clearly great potential for the sport in Ireland – a number of influential agencies were present – and there have been significant advances at school and student level there in 2014.

“Likewise, there was splendid contest the night before with Scotland beating a young Welsh side in Workington, which rekindled the World Cup spirit in Cumbria from last year.

“With Papua New Guinea, Lebanon, Fiji and Tonga also in action over the weekend there is a real energy in the international arena.

“Add to that the first-ever Balkan Championships in Belgrade with Bosnia Herzegovina picking up their inaugural win, Hungary claiming their first-ever try in an acknowledged Test match, and Serbia and winners Greece fighting it out for the main prize.

“There is now a depth and breadth to the game worldwide that does not yet get the credit it deserves.

“No one is pretending that these nations are going to win the next World Cup in 2017, the one after in 2021 or indeed for the foreseeable future but they are making great and significant strides for the sport.”

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