FORMER England captain Kevin Sinfield would be “really disappointed” if Australia is allowed to change the international landscape as he argues “meaningful” fixtures are crucial for the nation’s continued development.
The Rugby Football League’s rugby director was speaking yesterday in his ambassadorial role for the 2021 World Cup which, it has been revealed, will be exclusively played in England.
We need meaningful fixtures as a nation leading to the World Cup. I thought 2020 would be the year we’d get to play for the Ashes again and I’d be really disappointed if that’s changed.Kevin Sinfield
In the build up to that, the Rugby League International Federation announced the long-awaited revival of a Great Britain Lions tour of the southern hemisphere in 2019 followed by the Australians coming here for the Ashes the year after.
However, the Australian governing body has suddenly put forward an alternative plan – their Kangaroos visiting the UK next year with England playing in a Four Nations against lesser lights France, Papua New Guinea and Fiji in 2020.
Furthermore, it has made no mention of England’s mid-season Test against New Zealand in the States which is supposed to run for another two years. Sinfield admitted: “That raised both of my eyebrows. I sit here with a little bit of disappointment.
“I’d an understanding of what the international calendar was going to be for the next four years and suddenly it looks like there may be some doubt with that.
“We need meaningful fixtures as a nation leading to the World Cup. I thought 2020 would be the year we’d get to play for the Ashes again and I’d be really disappointed if that’s changed.
“I was disappointed in the plans put forward for England. I mentioned the word ‘meaningful’ and I mean this in the most respectful way but we need to be playing the best teams in the world – Australia and New Zealand, regularly, and I’d include Tonga in that as well.
“That’s really important for our programme going forward. When the decision was made for the Lions tour to be in the calendar I think we were all delighted.
“The next few weeks is going to decide a number of different factors on where we go but I’m pretty disappointed as we’ve been working off that plan we were given some time ago.”
An RLIF meeting in Singapore later this month should bring clarity and Sinfield – who helped oversee England’s march to last year’s World Cup Final – hopes the original plan will be signed off.
Meanwhile, previous World Cups hosted by the RFL in 1995, 2000 and 2013 included fixtures in France, Wales and Ireland but government funding will dictate a change in policy for 2021.
“The £25m that has come into the tournament is money for England,” said tournament director Jon Dutton.
Also, organisers will break with tradition by not starting the with a blockbusting clash between England and Australia.
The number of teams will be up by two to 16 and Sutton envisages four pools of four - with England and Australia kept separate.
Finally, the 2021 World Cup has been boosted by a £10m government grant set to ensure a lasting legacy in the shape of provisions for local clubs and community projects.