Wales stalwarts lead calls for more international rugby league and possible Six Nations
Wales’ most-capped players have added to calls for more international rugby league to be played and a better calendar.
Rhys Williams and Elliot Kear have amassed 63 caps between them, a mean feat considering the dearth of Wales games in recent years.
They added to their tallies with three appearances each in Wales’ 2021 World Cup campaign, which ended in three battling defeats to Cook Islands, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
But Williams, who has a record 33 caps for his country, expressed his frustration at still not knowing when his next Wales game might be.
He told BBC: “I’ve dedicated my career to playing for Wales, I love every second of playing for my country and we need to do it more.
“I think quite a few people have said it, off the back of exiting the World Cup, we need a plan for every year.
“We don’t know we’re doing or what’s going on next year. There should be a five or six nations.”
The international calendar, or lack of
Wales hadn’t played for an astonishing 1,316 days when they faced France in a mid-season international back in June. Although COVID was a factor in that delay, it is reflective of the fragmented nature of the international game.
Despite promises that a legacy of the 2013 World Cup would be a regular international calendar, almost a decade later it still hasn’t come to fruition.
The European Rugby League governing body’s efforts to re-establish the European Championships has been hampered by the pandemic.
A sensible tiered approach, featuring promotion and relegation, had been devised and was due to launch in 2020.
COVID put paid to that, and then the postponement of the World Cup meant the 2022 edition was cancelled too.
The plan in 2020 was to have two groups of three – France, Scotland and Italy, and Wales, Ireland and Spain, with the two group winners facing each other in a final.
It would then expand to eight teams for 2022, including England.
Part of the issue appears to be England’s schedule having a factor on everything else that follows. England are of course dependent on what Australia, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, decide to do.
The second tier involving Greece, European Championships B, has recently announced its schedule for 2023 – to date, the only confirmed international rugby league planned after the World Cup.
Since missing out on the 2008 World Cup, Wales won the European Championship (previously European Cup) in 2009, 2010 and 2015.
Their win in 2010 enabled them to participate in the 2011 Four Nations against England, New Zealand and Australia.
But an 80-12 defeat to England in Wrexham in 2012 was the last time Wales have played against any of the big three.
Skipper Kear says a regular international calendar can only be a good thing.
He said: “We probably should have played a bit more over the years that me and Rhys have played. There’s been a handful of us that have always put our hands up for Wales. We’ve always enjoyed coming together as a team.
“It would have been nice to play more.”
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