The World Cup’s challenge

The first Rugby League World Cup was held way back in 1954 with France the inaugural hosts. Only four nations were involved in that tournament, which was won by Great Britain.

Since then the competition has either been hosted by England or Australia, with co-hosting duties shared by Wales, Ireland, France and New Zealand.

The next World Cup in 2017 will be in Australia and New Zealand, with Papua New Guinea to stage some matches as a co-host for the first time.

That is great news and shows the tournament is branching out. The organization has begun for the 2021 edition and it appears that England will get it once again.

The UK, with games in Ireland, Wales and France, did a fantastic job in staging the World Cup in 2013. The standard of footy was excellent, the atmosphere in the stadiums was great, new areas were engaged and importantly, the tournament made some money. It was win-win.

I’m positive the UK would do another excellent job in hosting in five years time.

But isn’t the hosting swap from UK to Australia to UK to Australia getting a little bit stale? A little bit boring and one-dimensional?
Isn’t it time we broke new ground and took the World Cup somewhere new?

South Africa put its hand up for the 2017 edition that eventually went to the Aussies. Surely they must be a strong chance for 2021.
While they don’t have a huge rugby league heritage, South Africa is a rugby country in general and they have a history of staging big sporting events. The 2010 FIFA World Cup was a success and they have the necessary stadiums already built.

South Africa is cheap to visit, neatly located between the UK and Anzac countries and there were minimal problems with crime and violence for the football event six years ago. Crucially, a World Cup there would help the sport grow in that part of the world.

The UAE were keen on hosting the World Cup as well, but that was before all the Sol Mokdad drama and incident. It won’t be going there now.

But what about the United States and Canada? Both are developed countries who have a history of successfully hosting big sporting events and boast the necessary facilities and infrastructure needed.

Rugby League is growing in Canada and they want to join the League 1 competition. A World Cup on Canadian soil would help further whet the appetite for the sport.

In the past few decades rugby league has stuck a toe in the American waters with varying success. From a State of Origin game to Super League tours to an NRL vs Super League club match, it’s nearly had it all.

But maybe instead of a piece-meal attempt, we go the whole shebang and attack the US market with size and gusto? Bring a World Cup there and use the likes of Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Jarryd Hayne, hell maybe the Wiggles too, to promote it.

The World Cup is rugby league’s premier international event but it is largely a closed shop. We need to change the status quo, take a risk and be bold if we want it and the game to continue to grow and expand.

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