Rugby League World Cup

At least 15 developing rugby league countries have formed a working group to present a list of items to the International Rugby League (IRL) in regard to changes to the qualification process for future Rugby League World Cups.

The nations are from every continent and some of the issues that they want to talk about include IRL governance, transparency in rankings and fairness in the process, and they are adamant that it’s not about asking for money.

This follows the IRL’s announced changes in early August to #rlwc2025, which has been pushed back to 2026 because of France pulling out as the host. The number of teams in the men’s division will be reduced to ten based on international rankings with eight of them qualifying from last year’s World Cup. The two other countries will advance from a newly proposed World Series which will be a culmination of regional qualifying series.

The IRL has also made it clear that only nations that are full members will be eligible to qualify.

One of the countries in the working group is Canada and its chief executive says these issues need to be discussed to benefit the game in general.

“I can’t stress enough how much we want the IRL to work,” Canada Rugby League president John Cameron tells Rugby League Planet exclusively.

“It’s such a fun sport to watch, let alone play. The IRL is heading in the right direction by taking a serious look from top to bottom of the on-field product, governance, marketing etc.

“We think there are ideas we can contribute from our in-the-trenches experience as developing rugby league nations, that can help the overall mission.

“Funding helps, but we need to remember that nothing, nothing grows the game faster than a winner.”

Cameron says one of the main things the working group wants clarity on is the timeline the IRL has in mind for when countries such as Canada that are not yet full members can become so by meeting all the criteria.

“A number of us have got together as a working group and we’ve come up with a number of proposals to discuss with the IRL to constructively help to come up with a new process that we think will benefit the IRL for the long-term,” he says.

“So far, the IRL has been open and is talking to developing nations to get feedback and hopefully that productive atmosphere will continue.

“I can only speak for Canada in this regard, but we were caught a bit off guard by the scope of changes that were announced all at once compared to just announcing a host.

“Although there’s excitement about the prospect of a World Series, I think the devil is in the details and we want to make sure that the interests of Canada are protected. Many countries have similar interests as we do from a developing rugby league nation to make sure those interests are protected as we move forward.”

Cameron goes on to say that from the Americas’ men’s perspective, only one of the four countries is a full member, and that is Jamaica, which means Canada, the United States and Brazil may not get a look in as far as qualifying for a World Cup is concerned under the announced changes.

He says he doesn’t think that’s healthy for the game.

“I really do honestly think that everyone wants the sport to be successful and I think there are changes that are occurring in the IRL and how it is approaching its governance and its business acumen that is beginning to show a professionalization that the sport so desperately needs.

“You look back at the history of the World Cup since the turn of the century and it’s been growing, shrinking, paused, and relocated so I think some stability is greatly needed for it to get some broadcast revenue, some continuity and to get the international calendar.

“In Canada, we feel there are ways to do that without completely removing opportunities for nations like ours to have that hope of going to the World Cup.”

Cameron says to grow the game in developing nations being on the world stage is how to get the spotlight focused on rugby league domestically and grow the game. He says it has a lasting impact financially and, on the ability, to attract new fans.

The working group plans to present its list of items to the IRL this week.

Brian is a strong and effective communicator with more than 30 years’ experience in broadcast and electronic media. He has been writing for Rugby League Planet since 2012 and is frequently the first reporter to break news stories about the sport. He has been our North American correspondent reporting on news in the US, Canada and Jamaica covering everything from league standings to strategy analysis to breaking news on key trades to editorials and colourful features on athletes. He is now writing about rugby league on a broader scale to cover developments around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Brian started his career in Australian radio, before moving to the United States. He is an experienced podcast host and producer and is also a successful TV commentator having done play-by-play and analysis for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) among others. Brian has his own YouTube channel @brianlowe5567 where he posts his interviews for Rugby League Planet. Be sure to check it out and subscribe.