Where next with the Exiles? Widen the pool of players

The recent announcement of the Exiles squad seems to have received a somewhat muted reaction from the rugby league community this year. 

While the concept was regarded as a success in its first year, with the one-off game at Headingley attracting a decent crowd and being a reasonably entertaining game, things turned a little in the wrong direction last year.

The expansion to two games seemed to drain intensity, while the number of withdrawals through injury for the second game limited its effect.

The return to one game is a good idea, and there is a strong squad available to take on England. 

Michael Dobson and Blake Green in the halves, with Brett Hodgson at full-back and the likes of Willie Manu in the forward pack is certainly an entertaining looking prospect.

But with the flow of imports to the European game slowly beginning to dry up, as the lure of the Australian dollar keeps more at home, if the concept is to survive it needs to adapt.

One way of adapting would be to open the door of selection to all non-English players in Super League, or at least those players playing outside their own countries.

While it might be a bit silly to refer to Catalan Dragons’ French players as ‘Exiles’, Theo Fages at Salford could be available, by virtue of playing in England.

So would Wigan’s growing Welsh contingent, as well as the likes of Tyrone McCarthy and Scott Grix from Ireland.

This would make it more like the ‘Other Nationalities’ side of years ago, a concept which is part of our tradition and history.

With the Barbarians rugby union team having picked Sam Tomkins a few years back, maybe we should return the compliment and make a cheeky selection swoop for one of their stars? After all, Andy Powell might well have said yes if asked last year.

Of course, what would be much better would be a vibrant and exciting home nations championship, perhaps including France.

That looks to be some years off yet though. Hopefully the imminent return of a Great Britain touring side can induce more heritage players to turn out for the Celtic countries and make this more possible.

What is certain is that it is more international rugby league which is needed to make the game grow as we would like. Any ideas which can help with this should be welcomed.

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