The sport of rugby league undoubtedly seems to be thriving at the moment. For example, new research has hinted that viewing figures for the Super League are up, with its cumulative TV audience being 25 per cent higher than 12 months earlier. Furthermore, at the time of writing, the National Rugby League in Australia is all set to offer another season of high-quality action.
However, while the club game is doing well, a real talking point in recent weeks has come in the international scene with the news of the revival of the Great Britain and Irish Lions.
A landmark moment
It was confirmed at the start of March that the rugby league’s resurrected Lions would be heading to the southern hemisphere for a four-match tour in the autumn. Set to take place across New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, the landmark event will be the first time that Great Britain and Ireland have played in 12 years and will also mark their first appearance on the other side of world since 2006.
Two tests against the Kiwis are set to be held, while the combined team will also play the Kumuls for the first time in Papua New Guinea since 1996. Further history will be made with a clash against Tonga, as the match will mark the Lions’ first ever Test against the side.
England coach Wayne Bennett is set to take charge of the Lions, describing his role as an honour and adding that it was “good to have that Great Britain tradition back”.
Welcomed by many
Many throughout the sport have echoed Bennett’s sentiments, with a number of players particularly discussing their excitement at the prospect of being involved. According to news from rugby league odds provider bet365, Wigan’s Ben Flower is among those to have highlighted an interest. He described it as a “great chance” and stated it would be a highlight of his career. Another person to discuss the matter was George Burgess, who said it would be a dream to play.
Closer to home, Rugby League Ireland also welcomed the plans, with chairman Barry Coade outlining how he felt the tour would be a major challenge and offer a “big step forward” for international rugby league.
The tour is certainly a fascinating prospect and those behind the plans will be particularly keen to see the Lions recapture the imagination and have an impact similar to what is regularly seen in rugby’s other code. The Lions tours have become an unmissable event and an integral part of the rugby union calendar, with the side’s next challenge expected to take place in South Africa in 2021.
A new dawn?
Of course, the success of the revived Great Britain and Ireland side in rugby league may ultimately be determined by how well the side performs, beginning with its hugely anticipated dates in the southern hemisphere later this year.
Hopes will be high that the side will be able to dominate the tour in style and show that there is plenty of life left in the old-school concept.