Shaun Wane makes international rugby league plea ahead of England’s France clash

Alex Spink
Shaun Wane

Shaun Wane has urged rugby league to do a better job of self-promotion as he leads England into international battle at the home of union’s European champions.

An ankle operation prevents the England boss travelling to Toulouse where England’s men and women play France in a doubleheader tomorrow to celebrate 90 years of the French game.

Assistant coach Andy Last takes his place for a Test which comes just hours after Toulouse’s union side defends its Top-14 title against Bordeaux in a sell-out Final at Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

A crowd of around 10,000 is likely for the Anglo-French clash and Wane says it is high time league brings more attention on itself.

“We can do a lot better in bragging about our game, without a shadow of a doubt,” he told Love Rugby League.

“I do genuinely think every club needs to think outside the box and do something different. We need to find other ways of promoting our game. I just think sometimes we’re very slow on giving the good news.

“I remember a game a few years ago, Wigan and Saints going at it for 28 minutes non-stop. Retreat, sprint, hit, wrestle. Great skill, no error, no penalties. There’s not many sports in the world could have done what them athletes did that day. And we told nobody.

“The ball was in play for more than 60 minutes. In the first 15 minutes it only went out of play twice. James Roby, Saints’ captain, made 67 tackles. The stats were mind-blowing, but nobody knew about them.

“There’s not a sport in the world – not Aussie Rules, not NFL – with athletes that could do what ours did that day. And nobody knew.”

The game to which Wane refers was Wigan’s 18-6 win at St Helens in October 2020. On that same weekend England’s union team captured the Six Nations title with victory in Italy.


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“I don’t know how many stoppages there were in that game, and only one player made 10 tackles,” said Wane.

“I love international rugby union by the way so I’m not bagging the game, but we do a lot of good things in league and we need to tell people about them.”

Talk of Test match rugby union brings Wane to the next point he wishes to make, concerning the lopsided balance in league between the club and international games.

Asked whether Super League clubs and the national team could be better aligned, Wane responded: “It definitely could be improved.

“I’m good friends with all the CEOs and all the clubs and coaches. They’re under their own pressures, I do understand that. I’ve been the head coach of a club as well for many years.

“I get the big picture of they need to win games. But the CEOs also understand that the benefits to our game is the international game. Look at rugby union. It’s held together with the international game. We need to get to that.

“We need a real robust calendar where things are in place. People are buying tickets for next year and they know the games are on. That’s what we’re trying to get to. I do feel supported but I think it can improve.”

This weekend’s game against France is one of only three Tests England’s men play in 2024, with World Cup finalists Samoa in Wigan and Leeds for a two-match series this autumn.

It is fair to wonder, therefore, whether league is too much a club-dominated sport?

“Super League is the main thing for the broadcaster in terms of interest,” said Wane. “But in terms of [overall] interest, after the World Cup a couple of years ago Wigan’s season tickets went through the roof, as did other clubs’, because of the interest that generated.

“The next World Cup [2026 in Australia] will be the same. The international game is the future. Rugby union has proved that many, many times.”


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