Four Nations

By Richard Cowley, Date: 12/4/13

Well it has been a big news week for International Rugby League with the BBC announcing live coverage of All England’s 2013 RLWC Group games. The BBC will also broadcast one Quarter and Semi-final along with the World Cup Final. Premier Sports have won the rights to provide live coverage of all 28 RLWC games.

What slipped under the radar a little was the announcement the BBC had also won the broadcast rights for the 2014 and 2016 Four Nations along with the 2017 RLWC. It is assumed that the BBC will only be covering the games England play with the other matches going to a pay TV provider in the UK.

Well this is really great news and we finally have some clarity around the Four Nations. The successful tournament will grace our screens once again in 2014 and 2016. The big mystery at the moment is what will happen in 2015?

Speculation is rife already that an Ashes tour could fill the void in 2015. The Great Britain Jersey could be dusted off after last being worn in 2007 When Great Britain white washed the Kiwis 3 – 0 in a Test Series. Great Britain last played Australia in an Ashes series back in 2003 and many would love to see the Ashes return.

The question has to be asked does bringing Great Britain back in an Ashes series against Australia damage the progress being made in Wales and leave the Kiwis twiddling their thumbs in 2015?

The growth in Wales has been phenomenal over the past five years. They now have two semi pro clubs in the South Wales Scorpions and the North Wales Crusaders. They are co-hosting the 2013 RLWC and have the potential of becoming a nation that will be able to push the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England in years to come.

If you bring Great Britain back at international level the potential to damage the progress made in Wales is very real. We should be encouraging the Welsh to represent Wales not squandering the chances of players being able to play representative rugby league at the top level. If you bring back Great Britain those Welsh international players are all of a sudden competing against English international players for a place in the Great Britain squad. So the prospect of playing internationals becomes less likely for Welsh players who at the moment don’t really have a huge professional player base to call on like England. With no pathway players might see playing Rugby Union for Wales as a much better option.

And what about New Zealand? The Kiwis have only really hit their strides in the last 10 years. Every year the Kiwis battle with State of Origin to keep players loyal to the Kiwi cause. What will happen if the Kiwis don’t play any meaningful internationals in 2015? Players that have a choice between putting on the Kiwi jersey or playing State of Origin would more than likely pledge their allegiance to Australia. All the hard work done by the New Zealand Rugby League to build the Kiwis into a formidable force is undone.

See the picture starting to form? Before long the Kiwis will be lacking depth and we will be back to the dark days of international rugby league were Australia were miles ahead of New Zealand.

Has time washed away the reason why Great Britain was shelved in the first place?

The Four Nations concept is a great one and technically allows the fourth best rugby league nation in the World to have a crack at Australia, England and New Zealand. It is a great way to help develop those nations that have the potential to really make a difference at the top level. The focus should be on ways to assist Wales to become a stronger rugby league nation. Shouldn’t we also be doing all we can to keep New Zealand as competitive as possible?

Bringing back the Ashes series has the potential to undo the strides that have been made at international level and create instability and uncertainty for the likes of Wales and New Zealand.