Rugby League is poised to introduce a Six Nations Championship and it could be in place as early as next year.
HeraldSport understands that if the necessary commercial and broadcast support can be put in place, the competition will be an extension of the European Championship that involved Scotland, France, Ireland and Wales in 2014, with Italy, who have the capacity to put together a strong squad based on second and third generation Italian-Australian ‘heritage’ players as they did at the 2013 World Cup and a second string England team added to the mix.
The competition would not, in the first instance, attempt to be run on anything approaching the same scale as union’s annual cash cow and planning is based on it being a biennial event, with an initial series of competitions in 2018, 2020 and 2022 being lined up.
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Scotland played a major part in highlighting the potential of the international game when they drew with then world number one ranked New Zealand during last autumn’s Four Nations, a competition they earned the right to play in by winning the 2014 European Championship.
As well as that extraordinary performance in their final match against the Kiwis at Workington, the Scots demonstrated that England would not be able to take things for granted up against their European neighbours when they held the lead until beyond the half hour mark in the first ever England—Scotland international at Coventry.
An extra dimension to the discussion is the imminent revival of the Great Britain Lions that have been dormant for the past decade.
While it was a Scot who led them to victory in the first ever rugby World Cup in 1954, when Hawick’s Dave Valentine captained a team which also included fellow Borderer Dave Rose and Welshman John Thorley, another rugby union convert, Great Britain teams have, in the interim, tended to be little more than slightly enhanced England squads, with just the occasional Welshman or Scot forcing their way into contention.
Scotland’s performances at the World Cup and the Four Nations have demonstrated the benefits of providing international opportunities for a wider array of players, many of them dual-qualified.
That has perhaps been best exemplified by the inspirational performances of Danny Brough as their captain, the omission of the Huddersfield Giants half-back from England squads over the previous decade having been deeply controversial and his leadership of Scotland having provided him with the opportunity to demonstrate just why so many feel he has been hard done by.
Had there been a league Lions tour in either 2013 or 2016 it would have been almost impossible to imagine Brough being left out and rugby league administrators need look no further than the debate that have raged among followers of the other code in the past few days to see the attention that could be generated for the sport by adding the extra dimension of a meaningful competition involving the four Home Unions.