RUGBY LEAGUE’S Lions are set to roar once more in two years’ time, when the Great Britain team plays its first matches for more than a decade.
The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF), which met in Sydney yesterday, has confirmed a Lions tour to the southern hemisphere will take place in 2019.
The announcement will delight the sport’s traditionalists, who have mourned the Lions’ demise since the Great Britain side was split into four separate home nations following a 3-0 Test series whitewash of New Zealand in 2007.
England forward Sam Burgess, who is from Dewsbury and now plays with Australian club South Sydney, was among those celebrating.
He summed up the general mood among the sport’s fans in this country by telling his 215,000 followers on social media he “absolutely love[s] GB” and can’t wait to see the new kit.
The development is likely to come too late for Huddersfield Giants’ Danny Brough who has been one of Super League’s leading half-backs for more than a decade, but opted to play international rugby for Scotland after being snubbed by the England management.
The Great Britain team made its official debut under that name in 1947, beating New Zealand 11-10 at Headingley in the first game of a 2-1 series success.
The maiden Lions tour, played under the Northern Union banner, was in 1910, two years after the New Zealand ‘All Golds’ became the sport’s first touring Test side, beating the hosts 2-1 following games played at Headingley, Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge and in Cheltenham.
However, the Great Britain side’s return will only be sporadic, with England poised to continue for the next two World Cups - including this year’s tournament in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea - and Test matches in this country and the Great Britain name being used only when playing overseas.
A statement issued by the RLIF, which did not mention Great Britain, revealed New Zealand will tour Europe in 2018, with the Lions heading to Australasia the following year.
A European tour by the Australian Kangaroos is on the agenda for 2020 and men’s and women’s World Cups will take place in 2021 to complete the four-year international cycle.
Details of how many matches will be played on the revived Lions, Kangaroos and Kiwis tours have yet to be revealed, but next year’s visit by New Zealand will include at least three Tests against England and one meeting with France.
The new schedule means an end to Four Nations tournaments - staged alternately in this county and the southern hemisphere and involving England, Australia, New Zealand and one other country - until at least 2022.
The RLIF also confirmed qualification for World Cups will be concluded two years prior to each event with the qualifiers for the 2021 World Cup in England to be completed by December, 2019.
A dedicated mid-season international weekend will be created to build on the success of last week’s Test matches played in Sydney and the RLIF board will look into the business case for international nines competitions, with the possibility of men’s and women’s world cups in 2019 and for both youth and women’s nines to be included as part of the Commonwealth Games Festival next year.
Last night, Huddersfield’s Brough was handed a two-match ban after being found guilty of dangerous play.
He was sin-binned for a challenge on Castleford prop Grant Millington during his side’s 26-21 Super League defeat charged by the RFL’s match-review panel with a grade C offence.
Brough denied the charge when he appeared in front of a disciplinary hearing in Leeds last night and, although he was found guilty, the panel reduced the charge to grade B and handed him a one-match ban. He also denied a grade B dangerous tackle on centre Jake Webster in the the same game but was found guilty and handed the same punishment, along with a £300 fine.
Brough will begin his suspension at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle on Sunday, May 21.
Doncaster have announced the departure of head coach Gary Thornton after a disappointing start to their Kingstone Press League 1 campaign.
The Dons are currently seventh in the table with three wins from their opening seven matches and have put Pete Green, Rhys Lovegrove, Andrew Vincent and Pete Bell in charge while they look for a replacement for Thornton, who was in the job just under two years.
Doncaster general manager Carl Hall said: “I’d like to thank Gary for his efforts.
“Despite results not always going our way, he has been a great professional and worked his socks off for us.”