Record numbers playing international rugby league

England's Daryl Clark.

England's Daryl Clark.

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A record number of countries will be playing officially-sanctioned international rugby league in 2015, say organisers.

At least 28 countries will be playing competitively this year, with the total set to rise as plans are put in place for a 10-year calendar.

Most eyes are on next month’s Anzac Test in Brisbane and New Zealand’s three-match series in England in the autumn but also scheduled are a Pacific Series, European Championships at three levels, the Scandinavian Cup and matches in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Middle East as well as 2017 World Cup qualifiers.

“It is great to see the breadth of international teams who are competing in 2015,” said Graeme Thompson, chair of the Rugby League International Federation’s competitions committee.

“It will be fascinating to see England and New Zealand lock horns again after their recent dramatic clashes and we also have other developing rivalries such as Belgium and the Netherlands playing this year.

“There is a lot of stake this year in international RL and a lot to excite.”

If results go their way, New Zealand – who on Thursday extended the contract of head coach Stephen Kearney to the end of the next World Cup – could overtake Australia as the number one ranked country.

The RLIF recently appointed former ECB boss David Collier as its first full-time chief executive.

Gary Thornton has previously coached Batley Bulldogs, Doncaster and York City Knights

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