Zalduendo hints at return of France v England test match

The President of the Federation Francaise de Rugby a XIII, Carlos Zalduendo, has hinted that there are plans afoot to revive the annual fixture between England and France.

The fixture has not been played since 2012 due to other international tournaments, but Zalduendo has confirmed that he wants to see it return in 2016.

“Apart from the European Championship, in which they [England] do not participate because they always play the Four Nations with Australia and New Zealand, we will create, in 2016, a challenge between the two national teams (one match against each other in June in October),” he told La Depeche.

“This should allow us to move forward.”

Zalduendo was pleased with his team’s performance in the European Championship, and felt that their inabilty to win the tournament was more down to British refereeing than anything else.

“With a young team and an unfavourable fixture list (two away trips and one home game), we only lost in Ireland thanks to difficult weather conditions,” he said.

“We then beat Wales, and dominated Scotland at their home. [Scotland] finished in first place thanks to two points of points difference.

“Coincidentally, the Scots ‘miraculously’ came back to score in the last ten minutes, on the back of penalties.

“That they eliminated the points difference is particularly strange.

“Objectively, however, we simply lacked a preparation game. There is no disappointment in the team’s conduct, but not participating in the 2016 Four Nations is harmful.

“Especially as it is unusual that qualifying for that tournament takes place two years ahead, and, I repeat, we had to play two away games.

“There was a problem [with refereeing] which affected the game in Scotland, and I was not the only one to find some decisions incomprehensible, the English did too.

“I would like French referees for the next European Championship.”

Zalduendo has recently been in Australia alongside French President Francois Hollande as part of a diplomatic delegation.

He also confirmed that the visit had gone well, with plans afoot to strengthen the ties between French and Australian rugby league, and also to help spread the game to the French possession of New Caledonia.

“I participated in a panel discussion in Sydney, with the Consul General of France, in which we discussed many topics of interest,” he said.

“Over the last five years, we have welcomed 194 Australian players to France, but above all we want to send players in the other direction, as we started to do with Réole Gironde.

“Conversely, we also want to send young people between 18 and 21 years, from our French academy to there, where they could, for a year, juggle their studies and rugby league.

“Regarding New Caledonia, where our sport has been gone for ten years due to political and economic reasons, we hope to recreate exchanges, because the possibilities are interesting (Papua New Guinea where XIII is king, is close) and it would help us to ‘take off’ in the South Pacific.”

President Hollande is also keen to see more rugby league on French television, it would seem.

“At the official dinner in Canberra, I found myself at his table during dinner and when we took the plane back, he also invited me, with only 12 others, [to accompany him],” Zalduendo confirmed.

“He asked me to prepare a brief assessment of the situation. Previously, he told me of his regret that rugby league is not more extensively broadcast on television, and even told me about Fabrice Estebanez who played in Toulouse before moving from league to union.”

Zalduendo also remains convinced that Richard Agar is the man to lead the French national team to a brighter future.

“He is the man for the job,” he said.

“He is competent, he has the intelligence to understand the issues of French rugby league and he is deeply involved.

“He keeps in touch thanks to online matches on TechXIII, and oversees all meetings of the Elite group.

“And he has overseen the creation of France A, which will play its first match in South Africa in May, which should allow us to enrich our well of talent.”

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