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11 Jul 2018

Time to bring back Rugby League tours

Picture credit: John Oxley Library

It has been refreshing of late to see so much interest in the International growth of the game, despite being essentially on the back burner, in Australia anyway, for a few decades now. This interest has been sparked by an entertaining 2017 World Cup, the brilliant Pacific Tests and the Denver Test this year.

Naturally, to accommodate this, the season needs to be shortened and player welfare needs to be considered. The competition should revert back to 22 Rounds (no bye rounds) and a 3-week window where no club footy is played, just Origin, Pacific Tests and other rep games. 

Using 2019 as a guide, dates wise, the NRL Comp would start on March 1 and play 13 straight rounds before halting for three weeks for Origin to be played on June 1, 8 and 16 (all Saturday night). The comp would then resume on Friday June 21, where Rounds 14 through 22 will play out. The Finals would begin on August 23 and the Grand Final would be played on September 14 (Saturday night)

The tour would then begin on October 11 in a home match against Lebanon before heading overseas, starting with tests against Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, before heading to South Africa for a Test, then up to France for 2 tests before resting in the UK for 6 weeks, were they take on England in 3 Tests, Great Britain in 3 Tests and one-off Tests against Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

They then play a Test against Canada and the US before returning home shortly around New Years day, having played 19 Tests against 14 different nations. The following years NRL season could be pushed back an extra 3-4 weeks to allow the touring players time to rest.

(Using 2019 dates as a rough guide)

October 11 v Lebanon in Sydney

October 15 v Fiji

October 18 v SamoaOctober 21 v Tonga

October 25 v Papua New Guinea

November 1 v South Africa

November 8 v France

November 12 v France

November 16 v Wales

November 20 v Ireland

November 24 v Scotland

November 30 v England

December 4 v England

December 7 v England

December 11 v Great Britain

December 14 v Great Britain

December 21 v Great Britain

December 27 v Canada

December 30 v USA

The major nations should all embark on tours on a regular 4 yearly schedule that includes the World Cup

Year 1 – Australian tour

Year 2 – France and Great Britain/England tours

Year 3 – New Zealand Tour

Year 4 – World Cup

Back to Year 1

The Kiwi tours would mirror the Australians, while the Lions would start with three games by England against Ireland, Scotland and Wales to determine the Great Britain squad, before embarking on their tour to the same nations as Australia and New Zealand. France could then tour to different nations, focussing heavily on Europe before short stops to play Canada, USA, Jamaica and then a whirlwind tour of the Pacific before returning home.

It sounds huge, but when you consider that the last full tour by the Kangaroos, back in 1994, was 18 games played from October 2 til December 4.

There was also a pre-season competition in Australia in 1994, and a City v Country game to go with the 3 Origin matches, and a Test against the visiting French side, it makes the above proposal seem very reasonable in comparison.

Do you think the game needs a return to the old-style tours approach? Let us know in the comments below.