2025 World Cup in France will be great for the game says Leeds Rhinos’ Sean Long

STAGING THE 2025 World Cup in France will be good for rugby league, Sean Long – who is assistant-coach with Leeds Rhinos and the French national team – says.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 5:45 am

The tournament in three years’ time was this week awarded to France, who stepped in after financial problems ended the prospect of it being held in North America.

France hosted rugby league’s first World Cup, in 1954, but the forthcoming event will be the first time it has been held there since 1972.

Though the south of France is a rugby league stronghold, the game has a low profile in the rest of the country.

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Leeds Rhinos' Mikolaj Oledzki on the charge for England against France in October. The 2025 World Cup will be held in France. Picture: Will Palmer/SWpix.com.

But the 13-a-side code is on a high across the Channel following the success of Catalans Dragons – last year’s Betfred Super League leaders and Grand Final runners-up – and Toulouse Olympique who will join them in the top-flight this season.

Long believes confirmation of France as the 2025 host will be another boost for the game there and he is predicting success on and off the pitch.

The former scrum-half was appointed assistant to Laurent Frayssinous last March and was on the touchline when France were beaten 30-10 by England in Perpignan three months ago, having trailed 20-0 after as many minutes.

“I think it is great,” Long said of this week’s announcement.

Leeds Rhinos and France assistant coach Sean Long believes the 2025 World Cup in France will be great for rugby league. Picture: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

“French rugby league is thriving at the moment, with Toulouse and Catalans doing so well.

“I think the crowds will really get behind it. The atmosphere at the one-off Test [last year] was electric. Obviously, we didn’t get the result we wanted, but I think we’ll get the full support of the fans.

“It is somewhere different and it is a great opportunity for France to put their mark on it and try and do something special, whether they make the final or not.

“The semi-finals would be great, but I think it’s good for rugby league to have it in France.”

The sport across the Channel has endured some lean times in recent years, but Long believes the tide is turning. After a bad start, France caused England problems in last year’s Test and a posse of talented young players are beginning to emerge.

“England were obviously missing some key players, but France were missing five,” Long said of the 2021 encounter.

“If you take five key players out of the England squad or the Australian squad, it won’t make a difference – England are still strong.

“But we were missing Theo Fages, Julian Bousque and Benjamin Garcia and they are key players.

“A lot of the team are young, just breaking through – like Arthur Mourgue and a few others. By 2025 they will be more mature and they’ll be well established French players, at Catalans or Toulouse.

“I think it will be good timing for those young kids.”

There will be just three years between World Cups after the 2021 event was put back 12 months because of Covid. Long said: “Our goal last year was to make the quarter-finals, because they had a tough group with Samoa and England and Greece.

“By 2025 I think it will all change and they’ll be pushing for at least the semi-finals. I couldn’t believe, when I went out there, how positive they were.

“Even though the first 20 minutes was sketchy, after that I thought it was quite an even contest until they [England] scored a couple of tries at the end.

“The government and the president and the fans were happy because normally they get well beaten. They were buzzing.”

Long admitted the French team have “a lot of things to work on”. He added: “Playing for 80 minutes and stuff like that, but those young kids will have learned a lot by then.”

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