Rugby league’s international board has launched a new Nines competition for 2019, but it could leave out the northern hemisphere’s best players.
Overnight NRL Chief Executive Todd Greenberg announced that the first Rugby League World Cup will be held at the new Western Sydney Stadium in October 2019.
The shorter form of the game, including nine players-a-side, has seen a re-emergence following the introduction of NRL’s Auckland 9s series between 2014-2017.
It also follows efforts by other sports, notably rugby union and cricket, to tap into new markets with shorter formats with lucrative results.
At a press conference in Sydney, Greenberg assured fans that “the best players in the world will be on show in this unique concept”, including Australia players who had previously agreed to not schedule 13-a-side games for 2019.
All about a 9s World Cup. Depending on which players make themselves available, there could be plenty of nations catching rivals by surprise. #NRL
— Caden Helmers (@cadenhelmers) November 30, 2018
It also raises questions about the role of northern hemisphere sides in the competition. The competition will take place just six days after the Super League Grand Final, and the RFL has already announced plans for the Great Britian side to play next autumn.
Although details are yet to be confirmed, the GB Lions side are expected to play against the Kiwis, Tonga and Samoa next October, meaning Super League’s best players will likely be unavailable for the new competition.
How about attracting fans, players and commercial partners to the actual form of the game first? The general consensus is that rugby league’s on field product is good, so it doesn’t need the gimmick of 9s (unlike cricket T20 and Rugby 7s) https://t.co/xaHv3cHmlQ
— James Gordon (@jdgsport) November 30, 2018
12 mens and four women’s sides will take part in the two day competition, including England other home nations, although the final make-up is still to be confirmed.
Former chief executive of the RFL and now of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) focused on the idea of bringing new supporters on board; “The shorter form of Rugby League provides us with an exceptional competition to attract new fans, players and commercial partners to the sport across the world whilst appealing to our current supporter base.”
Words: Matthew Smith Subbing: Charlie Bradley